The Porter County
Election Board certified the results of the 2020 primary election on Friday.
The Board reviewed
provisional ballots, ultimately deciding to strike 28 and count 44. The 28
rejected votes included a few voters who had moved and not filed a change of
address, eight people who were not registered voters, and several voters who
voted in-person at the wrong precinct.
One voter who
didn’t update her address did have her vote counted because she followed the
County’s protocol of voting in her old district, according to Porter County
Clerk Jessica Bailey.
Of the votes
stricken for being cast at the wrong precinct, three were votes by poll
workers who Bailey said were recruited the day before the election to staff
a Union Township polling place. Board member Jeff Chidester said he hated to
punish poll workers, since they did the County a big favor, but he couldn’t
let the votes stand, especially as Assistant Director of Elections Becky
Rauch noted the workers may have cast a vote on a school referendum for a
district they aren’t part of.
Bailey and Rauch
reported the Elections Office had received 203 late absentee ballots as of
noon on Friday. Because Indiana does not have a postmark law, mailed ballots
must be received by the Elections Office by 12 p.m. on election day to
count, according to Bailey.
groups, including the Indiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU) and the League of Women Voters, have called on Indiana Secretary of
State Connie Lawson to allow mailed ballots that arrive up to six days after
the election to be counted if they are post marked by election day, due to
the special circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
on the campaign: Indiana Code might need some adjustments, “If absentee by
mail continues to increase in popularity.”
“The post office
tried its best to keep up with the increase in demand for services, but the
large increase in absentee by mail is not something that could not be
planned for on such short notice during a pandemic,” Bailey added.
The Board’s regular
meeting followed the certification, and Bailey opened it by thanking the
election staff for their hard work handling the influx of 15,000 absentee
ballots voters cast amid the pandemic.
Bailey said her
staff not only worked long hours--they were understaffed due to the pandemic
and tasked unexpectedly with unpacking and sorting personal protective
equipment that arrived on pallets from the Indiana Secretary of State.
Bailey also thanked
the maintenance and IT departments and the Expo Center for their help.
Maintenance created Plexiglass barriers for in-person voting, and the Expo
Center was used for poll worker training as well as the election night
count. Using the Expo Center provided for social distancing and a room where
a live feed of results was broadcast, and Bailey said she’s already reserved
it again for November’s election.
Bailey said she
expects November to be another long night, and she looked into renting an
extra high-speed central count machine, but none are available through the
County’s vendor. There is one available to buy, but it’s costly at about
$60,000, she said.
she’s going to look into whether or not Indiana law will permit her to start
the central count machine as early as 8 a.m. on general election day.
Elections staff didn’t start running the machine until well after the 12
p.m. deadline for mailed or hand-delivered absentee ballots had passed on
member David Bengs said the election went “as smoothly as everyone could
have hoped with all the obstacles.” Bengs also said he thinks the count
could have been done by 9 p.m. had the County been allowed to start the
central count machine earlier.
In other business,
the Election Board has received all but one pre-primary campaign finance
report, and is in the process of checking them for errors and sending them
back to candidates for corrections. The Election Board meets next at 3 p.m.
on Thursday, July 16.