Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton and other early vote locations in doubt

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The Porter County Election Board is reconsidering its decision to hold early voting in its three established locations, including Chesterton Town Hall, after a concern was raised about having County Clerk candidates in a polling place.

Election Board Chairman and Republican member David Bengs on Friday said County Commissioner President John Evans has suggested moving early voting stations in the County Administration Building to another room as a fix to the issue of having Democratic Clerk candidate Kathy Kozuszek present in the Voters Registration office where voting has traditionally taken place.

Kozuszek, who was not present at the election board meeting, is also the Democratic Director of the Voters Registration Office and the vice-chair of the Porter County Democrats.

The concern, Bengs said, is the appearance of electioneering with a candidate in the presence of voters. In addition, Indiana’s election law states that a political party chairman or vice-chairman may not be present in a polling place when they are a candidate for office.

Meanwhile, current Clerk Karen Martin has an annex of her office where early voting takes place in the Portage North County Complex which could also raise the same concerns since she is running for reelection and would be in that office at certain times during the early voting period.

Bengs said Evans proposed moving the early voting stations to the nearby health department offices.

At one point in the discussion, Martin, who is one of the three Election Board members, asked her peers if it would be suitable to add an early voting location in the south part of the county since the northern section already has two locations.

The board on Feb. 18 unanimously agreed to begin early voting in Porter County on Tuesday, April 8, at the Voters Registration Office, the Portage North County Complex, and the Chesterton Town Hall under a motion approved by the board last month, just as it did for the 2012 elections.

“We should be mindful of south county,” she said.

Standing in for the board’s Democratic representative J.J. Stankiewicz who was absent Friday, Valparaiso attorney Katrina Spence questioned the legality of holding early voting in the Chesterton and south county locations saying she believes the law limits where the election board can hold its satellite voting locations.

She said that the law states that early voting be at “a” satellite office established by the circuit court clerk. Chesterton Town Hall is not part of the County Clerks’ offices.

Martin asked if that’s that case, then why has Stankiewicz supported having early voting in that location.

The board asked its attorney Ethan Lowe to review the law and give them his legal opinion later this week when the board meets on Friday, March 14. Stankiewicz is planning to be present then.

A resolution to establish satellite early voting locations would need a unanimous approval by the board, according to Indiana law.

Lowe said it typically takes a large amount of time to determine if a location is suitable for early voting because of space requirements and thorough inspections. It may be too late to find a spot in the south part of the county for this year’s elections, he said.

The primary elections will be held Tuesday, May 6.


Posted 3/10/2014