The Porter County
Council Tuesday voted 6-1 to approve Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey to
transfer money within her budget to purchase a special purpose vehicle.
Bailey requested a
transfer of $70,000 from her polling place boards line item to motor
vehicles, as the Election Board approved at its last meeting. Bailey told
the Election Board earlier this month she was requesting a transfer instead
of an additional appropriation in hopes of having the vehicle before early
voting begins. $70,000 surplus from Bailey’s 2019 budget that she was hoping
to use to buy the vehicle in December rolled back into the general fund at
the beginning of the year after the County Council tabled her first request
to buy the vehicle. Bailey said she will go through the longer process of
requesting an additional appropriation later if the funds need replacing.
Having the vehicle
for early voting is important because Bailey plans to use it for a novel
idea--a mobile early voting site. The Elections & Registration Office has
tentatively scheduled the mobile vote center to visit parks in Towns without
early vote centers on Saturdays in April.
The vehicle will
also be used to transport equipment to and from poll worker education
classes and early voting sites and to problem polling places on election
day, if the need arises. The County racked up excessive charges renting
vehicles or had to borrow the Coroner’s van in the 2019 elections, according
municipalities in the United States have experimented with offering mobile
early vote sites. Porter County stands to be the first place in Indiana to
said mobile vote sites are operated out of single-wide trailers towed by
another vehicle, but Bailey’s eyeing a vehicle that resembles a small
commuter bus or senior center van, which doesn’t need to be towed and comes
ADA-accessible with a wheelchair lift.
Mobile voting sites
are legal in Indiana as long as they’re operated like a regular voting site,
Bailey said. Dates, times, and locations for mobile early voting must be
planned and advertised, and the vehicle itself operated by a bipartisan
team. Elections & Registration has proposed the mobile vote site could visit
Pensey Park in Kouts, Lakeland Park in Burns Harbor, and Haven Hollow Park
in South Haven. Parks are more accessible for voters without reliable
transportation and for busy families, according to Bailey.
The Council asked
for more information about Bailey’s plan in November. She reported Tuesday
she confirmed the vehicle and all its planned uses are covered under County
insurance and arranged for it to be stored and maintained by the Porter
County Highway Department. Insuring the vehicle costs $1,600 a year.
Council member Bob
Poparad (D-1st) said early in the discussion that he planned to vote against
the proposal. Poparad argued $70,000 is better spent on traditional early
voting. “I just thought expanding early voting would have a way bigger
impact than driving that van through Burns Harbor’s Lakeland park on
Saturdays,” he said.
that turnout is too low in certain early vote locations to justify expanded
hours, and the mobile vote center offers a convenience factor for voters in
Towns without early vote sites. Also, Bailey has planned expanded early
voting--she’s adding a fifth early voting site, in Union Township, and
expanding early voting hours at every location on every Tuesday and Thursday
in advance of the primary.
Council member Greg
Simms (D-3rd) was in ardent support of the idea, as he went back and forth
with Poparad saying other municipalities would love to have this
opportunity. Simms said he’d also talked to Porter County voters who like
the idea: “This is a very positive thing.”
Council member Dan
Whitten (D-At-large) said there’s no harm in thinking outside the box.
Council Vice-president Mike Jessen (R-4th) said he appreciated all the
efforts to expand early voting. “I appreciate your effort,” Jessen told
Bailey. “You, at least to my satisfaction, went out and got the questions
answered. I applaud the Election Board and your office in terms of trying to
make this happen.”
approved the transfer with Poparad as the lone no vote.