Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Porter County voter turnout near 65 percent; voters office needs more space

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Official results show that 64.4 percent of Porter County’s 114,618 registered voters went to the polls, not quite matching the results in the benchmark 2008 presidential election which saw a 66.3 percent turnout.

Of the 73,810 votes counted, Republican director for the Voters Registration Office Sundae Schoon said 15,242 voted early, which was less than the 17,000 or so early votes seen in 2008. Still, in the days leading up to the election lines stretched to more than an hour’s wait in the county’s early voting locations, even with the addition of Chesterton Town Hall as a third voting site this year.

“For the first week and a half the lines weren’t too constant,” Schoon said, “but after that we were getting slammed.”

Other than the waits, the Voters Registration Office reported no major problems. No challenges were made to the election board on Friday, which was the day Indiana counties were asked to certify their vote totals ten days after the general election.

The votes were certified by Election Board president and Republican member Patrick Lyp and County Clerk Karen Martin. Absent from the meeting was J.J. Stankiewicz who excused himself because his wife Nancy Vaidik was on the ballot to retain her office as a state appellate court judge.

Democratic director of the Voters Registration Office Kathy Kozuszek said 89 provisional ballots, or ballots issued when a poll worker questions a voter eligibility, were issued. A provisional ballot can be accepted if the voter provides documentation that validates their voter registration.

From those 89 ballots, 26 were good to be counted, Kozuszek said. Forty-five ballots were dropped because the voter had not been registered, 11 did not provide a government issued ID, and seven asked for their votes to be canceled because their candidate did not win. Kozuszek said “it is a shame” when people decide to cancel their ballots because it will be recorded that they didn’t vote in this election.

A total of 81 mail-in ballots came in after the election and only 10 of them could be counted because they were overseas or military ballots.

The added votes did not change the outcomes of any races, although as Kozuszek said, “every vote counts.”

Mickey Mouse vs. Willie Nelson

If it all came down to write-in candidates instead of the two party system, Mickey Mouse would have captured Porter County’s popular vote for President. Kozuszek said the Disney mascot captured more votes than Jesus Christ, the Tooth Fairy, Sesame Street character Big Bird, children’s television character Bob the Builder, TV host and comedian Stephen Colbert, and singer Willie Nelson, although none of them counted as legitimate votes.

Thirty-three write in votes for president did count and 26 of them were for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, six votes for Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, and one vote for Socialist Party candidate Stewart Alexander and his vice-president candidate Alex Mendoza.

Praise given

Lyp personally commended Schoon and Kozuszek for their efforts during the busy election season.

“Given the political (nature) of this office, the parties in the best interest of the public put affiliations aside and did what they could leading up to the election,” Lyp said. To the workers, he said, “I can’t say more but thank you and give you my full appreciation.”

Martin concurred.

Workers seek more space

“Busy” might be a little more than an understatement of how Schoon and Kozuszek described their office throughout all stages of the election process. Kozuszek said they both worked 21-hour days the last three nights and spent long hours filing the early voting/absentee ballots coming in each day from the county’s 123 precincts.

“Many people think we only work one day a year. That’s not true. Sundae and I have been working on this election since July,” Kozuszek said.

Kozuszek told the board her office is working in cramped conditions and is in desperate need of more space.

With the number of voter registrations increasing, Kozuszek expressed doubts her office would be able to adequately manage the next presidential election. There are counties with smaller voting populations that have significantly more office space, she said.

Present at the meeting, Indiana Regional Manager for Election Systems and Software Jeremy Burton said of the two dozen counties he has visited in Indiana, Porter County appeared the busiest to him.

Kozuszek said they have approached the board of County Commissioners and will hold a discussion at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m. presenting hard data that shows the increase in voter numbers.

Lyp said the board a few years ago considered moving to an offsite location but at some point the plan fell through. He agreed with the need and said he will communicate it to Commissioner President John Evans, R-North.

“There really isn’t any alternative. More space translates into better run elections,” Lyp said.

The commissioners earlier this year talked about storing voter office equipment at the former sheriff’s building in South Haven which is being renovated to alleviate some space needs.

Next year is an off-election year but Schoon and Kozuszek said Union Twp. schools are considering a referendum and there are rumors of possibly two others.

Further discussion will take place at the election board’s next meeting on Dec. 4 when the board will choose whether to sign a new contract with ES&S.

Fill in your circle heavy and dark

Meanwhile, Kozuszek said the office had some ballots where voters either circled the names of candidates or put X’s near them which couldn’t be read by the voting machines. The machines require voters to fill in the ovals completely. Employees followed the original intent of the voters and marked a new ballot filling in the ovals in order for their votes to count.

Kozuszek said the office will educate the public further next election of how to mark their ballots.

 

 

Posted 11/19/2012