Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County prepping for a social distanced election

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By LILY REX

Porter County is currently still planning to hold in-person voting for both early voting and the primary election, but elections staff are preparing for the possibility of holding a strictly absentee vote-by-mail election as well, according to Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey.

Bailey reported in an Election Board meeting live-streamed online last week that recommendations from the Indiana Election Commission are in limbo as the State grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting State stay-at-home order. The primary election was delayed until June 2 in response to the virus, and the Indiana Election Commission subsequently issued a host of new orders for how the primary should run based on recommendations from Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

The Election Commission’s complete, detailed order, issued at its March 25 meeting, is available at SOS: Election Commission and members of the public are welcome to comment on the changes by submitting comments to elections@iec.in.gov

The big thing, Bailey said, is that all dates relevant to the election will be moved forward 28 days, which means early voting will start Tuesday, May 5, and the last day to register to vote is now Monday, May 4. For candidates, the deadline to file pre-primary campaign finance reports has been extended to May 15.

Bailey reported she’s closely following updates from the State and planning for both in-person voting with social distancing or a switch to vote-by-mail. “We’re working with the facilities and health departments to see what precautions we can take. We’ve ordered gloves, cleaner, and sanitizer,” she said. Bailey added that the County also has “please stand here” signs that can be placed six feet apart to enforce social distance, and she’s considering hiring “traffic control” people to maintain distance in lines.

There’s already been an uptick in the number of people requesting to vote by mail, as the Statewide order allows anyone to cast an absentee ballot for the June 2 primary in response to the crisis. Elections Director Sundae Schoon reported almost 2,000 absentee ballot requests have come in, the majority of which came in the past two weeks. Schoon said the Elections & Registration Office has sent out about 1,000 ballots so far. “We’re expecting more to keep coming, so we’ve been ordering more supplies and keeping stocked up and ready,” Schoon said.

The Elections & Registration Office staff have been working on confirming polling locations for the new primary date. Staff have also reduced their time in the office, with half the staff working Monday through Wednesday morning, and the other half coming in Wednesday afternoon through Friday as a social distancing precaution, Bailey reported.

Other useful tools the State has handed down: family members or caregivers are allowed to hand-deliver absentee ballots on a confined voter’s behalf; health care workers and 16- and 17-year-old students can be appointed to absentee voting travel boards to help confined voters cast ballots; and ballots or forms that have already been printed with the previous primary date will be counted as valid to save on the costs of reprinting.

Mobile Voting

Bailey announced the Election & Registration Office’s new special purpose vehicle arrived March 27. The Ford Starcraft 8+2 van has been retrofitted for use as a mobile voting center and wrapped with Porter County Elections decals.

For the time being, Bailey plans to use the vehicle as a mobile early voting site between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the following Saturdays: May 16 at Kouts Library, May 23 at South Haven Library, and May 30 at a yet-to-be-determined location in Burns Harbor.

The mobile vote center will also have Wednesday hours from 4 to 7 p.m. on May 13 at Jamestown Apartments in Valparaiso and May 22 at Oak Tree Village in Westchester Township. The Board approved these dates and times March 30 and will vote in April to confirm the Burns Harbor location.

Meeting Calendar

The Board’s next meeting is scheduled for April 16 at 3 p.m. With the change in the statewide election schedule, Bailey proposed, and the Board subsequently approved, changing its calendar going forward.

The public test of election equipment is scheduled for May 1 at 8 a.m. in the equipment room of the County Administration Building. The Board will also meet May 21 and May 29.

The Board will no longer meet on May 15, the day they had previously marked to certify the results of the primary. The Board will meet June 12 at noon to certify the results of the June 2 primary, and this meeting will act as the Board’s regular meeting for June.

The Indiana Election Commission meets next April 22 at 10 a.m. ET. In Indianapolis.

 

Posted 4/6/2020

 
 
 
 

 

 

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