The Porter Election Board on Tuesday voted 2-1 to restore the number of poll
workers to match the number for the 2012 primary elections.
The vote came after Democratic board member J.J. Stankiewicz debated with
fellow board member and County Clerk Karen Martin, a Republican, over the
merits of eliminating 120 to 136 workers.
Martin proposed the worker reductions in early March from the county’s 79
different polling locations and asserted that the move would bring about
$20,000 in savings for the County. She said she decided where to cut based
on the number of registered voters who actually went to polls in past
primary and general elections.
Poll inspectors receive a compensation of $135 while clerks and judges are
paid $110. Each worker is also given a $15 meal voucher.
One example Martin gives is that of Jackson Twp. Elementary School, the
polling location for the five Jackson precincts, which had three inspectors,
four judges and eight clerks in 2012. With two inspectors, four judges, and
four clerks, the net savings would be $800.
Stankiewicz, who was absent from the meeting when Martin first made her
proposal, said his concern was that the loss of workers would make it less
convenient for voters and discourage them from turning out for the election.
He asked if “saving a few shekels for County Government” was more important
than a vote.
“Why would you roll the dice on a vote?” Stankiewicz said. “I’ve said it
many times, efficiency does not work with democracy.”
Martin said voter turnout for the 2012 primary election was a low 21 percent
but the same number of workers was used for the general election when there
was a 64 percent turnout. The turnout for the previous mid-term elections
for the primaries in 2010 was even lower -- 17 percent.
“It doesn’t make any sense when you look at the numbers,” she said.
Democratic Director of the Voters Registration Office Kathy Kozuszek opposed
the decision to reduce poll workers as one of her issues in a complaint she
submitted to the board, arguing that Indiana states it can only be done with
a unanimous vote from the three Election Board members.
She also disputed Martin’s numbers, saying more workers are needed at
precincts that have a significantly high number of voters.
Stankiewicz supported his argument saying that given that a majority of the
workers are elderly, moving the large equipment with fewer people may not be
That’s the point that got Board President and Republican member David Bengs
to side with Stankiewicz.“That equipment is very heavy,” said Bengs. “If
we’re going to save money, I don’t think staffing is the way to do it. I say
the staffing should stay the same as it was (in 2012).”
Both Bengs and Stankiewicz voted to retain the 2012 numbers while Martin was
opposed. She asked why eight clerks are needed at the Liberty Twp. Middle
School auditorium polling location when the voter turnout for the 2012
primary was 497 out of 2,365 registered voters. She believes two will be
Kozuszek said bringing back the workers would have to wait until next
election because the pay figures with the cuts by Martin had already been
sent to the county auditor’s office.
Bengs, however, said the board will see that that the figures are revised.
In a related matter, Stankiewicz questioned the board’s decision last month
to purchase 18 electronic poll books, another venture Martin advocated.
He moved not to use the machines as he has heard that the Lake County
Election Board decided against utilizing them. He wants to find out what
those reasons were before committing to their purchase.
The technology from vendor Election Systems and Software has been certified
for use in Indiana but only two out of 92 counties had them tested,
according to Stankiewicz.
The e-poll books have arrived but will not be used for the primary election.
County Election officers will train on them over the summer. Martin said the
goal is to eventually have all precincts in the County using them.
Kozuszek speculated Martin was going to be using the e-poll books for the
upcoming primary which she said violated Indiana Senate Bill 385 which
states all precincts must use e-poll books if they are purchased, not just
some of them.
Stankiewicz said the board should do its due diligence in talking to the
County Council and Commissioners on a funding plan for the machines.
Campaign signs complaint
At the end of the meeting, Bengs allowed those sitting in the audience to
address the board.
Valparaiso Republican Kenard Taylor brought pictures of campaign signs
belonging to Democratic candidates in the County Clerk, Sheriff, Recorder
and Portage Assessor races that did not have the words “for” or “elect” with
the office they are running for.
Taylor said that gives the false appearance that they are in fact a public
official which is in violation of the law. Signs like Councilman Jim Biggs’s
and Karen Martin’s don’t require the extra wording because they are the
He told the board members he wouldn’t ask that the candidates be fined but
notified they need to have their signs changed.
Meanwhile, County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Chidester said the law also
forbids titles such as “President” or “Major” from appearing on campaign
In another matter, Porter resident Jennifer Klug read aloud e-mails between
her and an Indiana Public Access counselor regarding the out-the-door lines
during the March 14 election board meeting held in a small meeting room of
the County Administration Building.
The access counselor said that if a board or commission is anticipating a
large crowd, it should make efforts to accommodate the public wanting to
observe the meeting.
Bengs told Klug the board will try to comply with the suggestion for future