Contrary to what
was reported in January, Porter County will not -- repeat not -- be rolling
out touch-screen voting machines for this year’s municipal elections, but
election workers will be utilizing electronic poll books and ballot printers
at all voting locations.
The County will
continue using paper ballots this year, and likely next year as it is a
presidential election and not the time to be making any major changes, said
Election Board President and Republican representative David Bengs.
“I’d like to see it
all electronic but we’re not ready for that yet,” he said. “Ballots will
still be filled in with a pen or pencil.”
At its previous
meeting on Jan. 23, the board voted 2-0 with one abstention to recommend the
County Board of Commissioners approve a new five-year contract with vendor
Electronic Software and Systems that included $56,000 to lease equipment
including touch-screen voting machines.
Commissioners have not discussed the matter, the board on Friday took action
to purchase other equipment from its budget that will make some upgrades at
the polls for this spring’s municipal primary elections.
“The intent is to
make (the voting process) better by making things quicker and easier,” said
County Clerk Karen Martin, who is secretary of the Election Board.
The three members
agreed unanimously to purchase 41 additional poll books, adding to the 15
purchased last year, for about $90,000. Also, a tabulation machine and
software that would count all absentee ballots in one location for about
$35,000, a discount of almost $30,000. Lastly, equipment and software for a
fourth early voting satellite location was also purchased for roughly
Before voting on
the purchases, Jerome Davison who was proxy for Democratic board member J.J.
Stanckiewicz questioned if the board could afford the purchases. Martin said
there are sufficient funds in the budget and there will be a savings because
of not having to print as many ballots.
Martin made the
initial push last year to use e-poll books and on-demand ballot printers
because such a large number of ballots would go unused. The new method,
according to Martin, will net a savings of approximately $70,000.
E-poll books, for
most of the time, would scan the bar code on the back of a voter’s driver’s
license and tell the poll worker what ballot is needed without him or her
having to look up the information, and will operate through a secure
network. Only the poll worker would see the computer screen.
The poll book keeps
record of the vote and prevents a voter from trying to vote multiple times.
From the audience,
Chesterton attorney Terry Hiestand expressed concern about the dangers and
potential snafus with using the new machines and software, in the wake of
news this past week, with the ISTEP+ exam freezing up during a computer
stress test and the massive cyber hack reported by Anthem Insurance.
Martin and Bengs
said they have researched how the new equipment has worked in other counties
and what has been done when there have been issues. If a piece of equipment
malfunctions, there will be a back-up to replace it, Bengs said.
As for the
information stored in the e-poll books, Martin said the information is
public record anyway and Bengs added that it does not include private
information such as a voter’s social security number.
Bengs said the
system “will never be perfect” but many counties are moving toward
electronic voting. Lake County is one county that uses touch screens and
voters there have given positive feedback because the candidates’ names are
larger and easier to read.
In the matter of
early voting, Bengs said the board cannot approve a new early voting site
until the equipment is procured and will do so at its next meeting on March
Since 2012, early
voting has taken place at the Voters Registration Office, or County Clerks’
office in Valparaiso, at the North Government Complex in Portage, and at
Chesterton Town Hall. The new additional location is planned for either
Kouts or Hebron for the convenience of voters in the southern half of the
change in Jackson Twp.
Republican Director for the Voters Registration office Sundae Schoon asked
that the board combine Jackson Twp. voting precinct 4 with Liberty Twp.
Schoon said there
are only 24 registered voters in Jackson 4 and it would be a shorter
distance for them to vote at the Liberty Twp. Fire Dept., where Liberty 1
votes, than at their current voting location -- Jackson Twp. Elementary
Even though the
precincts are in different townships, Schoon told the Chesterton Tribune
there are other instances in the county where voters from one township vote
in another. Ballots for Liberty 1 and Jackson 4 will be at Liberty Twp. FD.
The board voted 3-0
in favor of the change.