Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Election Board certifies primary results

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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.

Several advocacy 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.

Bailey’s thoughts 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.

Bailey reported 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 primary day.

Election Board 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.



Posted 6/16/2020







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