Chesterton Tribune



Indiana Secretary of State investigation of Porter County election sought

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The Board of Commissioners is calling on the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office to investigate the handling of Tuesday’s general election after 12 polling places didn’t open on time, absentee and early votes were never delivered to many precincts on Election day, and a multitude of poll worker and voter complaints.

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, made the motion at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting directing County Attorney Scott McClure to draft a letter outlining the problems with the Election and asking for investigation by the Secretary of State’s Office and the Indiana State Police.

Biggs and Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, made the choice to involve the FBI last week, and FBI officials visited Porter County last Thursday. Tuesday, Blaney made a point to explain the multiple calls. “The FBI and the agencies we talked about contacting today, they have different roles and different things they’ll look at.”

For instance, Blaney said the FBI would focus more on voter suppression and voter fraud, whereas the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office would determine what areas of Indiana code may have been violated.

Biggs said the Board will make every effort to be sure nothing like this happens again in Porter County.

“Many people probably don’t know that all three of the County Commissioners are native residents of Porter County. I think I can say on their behalf, that was a very embarrassing situation to see our County experience,” Biggs said. “There are very few things this County could have experienced that would damage its reputation as much as what happened Tuesday [Nov. 6] night.”

Blaney added, “I think what’s most important to us is to have a fair election and have it go smoothly. We’re proud to be from Porter County, and we want everyone else to be proud too.”

Three members of the public--all of whom worked the polls this past Election and in the primary--addressed the Board hoping to see change in how the workers are treated.

Kathy Sipple, of Valparaiso, proposed that “an ad hoc committee of both parties and poll workers with varied amounts of experience would be very beneficial to be sure the poll worker experience is included in addressing training.”

The inspector who worked with Sipple reported hearing a lot of first time poll workers vow to never work an Election again. Sipple provided the Board with a printout of a Google Document where at least five poll workers have shared their experiences in detail.

Robert Haver, who has worked the polls for 30 of the 32 years that have passed since he turned 18, asked that the payment for poll workers be processed faster this year as a nod to the fact that many workers had a 20-hour day and took on extra duties. He also mentioned that the Board should consider allocating extra funds to increase the pay. “I walked out the door at 4 a.m. and pulled in my driveway a few minutes to midnight. I was given one precinct and at 6:30 Monday evening, was asked to do another one,” he said.

Biggs agreed that “no one signed up” for what happened in the Election and said he has informally talked to three members of the County Council who would be in favor of increasing the pay.

In the meantime, County Auditor Vicki Urbanik said she has a plan to fast track the payments once she gets all the required information from the Clerk’s Office.

“They need to tell us who worked the polls and in what position,” Urbanik said. Then, she’ll need to obtain up-to-date payroll forms from everyone if they are not already on file. This is the part Urbanik has a plan for. The Clerk’s Office, however, has given her no indication of when the data on who worked will be ready.

Other approvals

The Board accepted the Porter County Substance Abuse Council third quarter report. Executive Director Dawn Pelc reported that the Council has received $375,000 in grant funding to provide mental health education to the public over the next five years. The education will be done working with Porter-Starke Services. Pelc says it will be for teachers, police officers, and anyone else interested.

The Board approved a contract brought by Porter County Assessor Jon Snyder for Appraisal Research Counselors to help the Assessor’s Office meet its annual adjustment deadline, which has been moved up from August of next year to March 1. Appraisal Research was the low bidder of three, proposing a $41,500 contract.


Posted 11/15/2018




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