Mobile voting is
coming to Porter County--Clerk Jessica Bailey reported the Board of
Commissioners approved her request to buy a special purpose vehicle at its
the Commissioners meeting, the Election Board convened Tuesday and heard
reports from Bailey and Director of Elections Sundae Schoon. Bailey reported
she got approval to buy the vehicle, which resembles a senior center bus,
and the price dropped significantly from the $70,000 figure she was quoted
late last year.
The Ford Starcraft
8 + 2 from Midwest Transit costs $58,900 up front, including seat removal
and the addition of an extra power source to charge voting machines, and
$1,600 a year to insure. It will be used to transport voting equipment, host
voter registration drives, and as a mobile vote center. Bailey has said
Elections and Registration having its own vehicle will pay off both in
dollars saved on van rental and in intangible ways such as improving access
proposed buying the vehicle with $70,000 she had left over in her budget
last year. The extra funds were rolled back into the general fund after the
County Council tabled her request until January.
Bailey told the
Election Board Tuesday she’ll finalize the locations the mobile vote center
will visit and bring them to the Board’s March meeting for approval. She has
proposed the vehicle visit parks in Burns Harbor, Kouts, and South Haven on
Saturdays in April and is planning a public ribbon cutting for when it
The mobile vote
center, manned by a bipartisan team, will be equipped with a backup
electrical source to charge voting machines and will be ADA-accessible. The
plan to use a self-contained vehicle as a mobile vote site is novel, as
trailers are usually used in other municipalities that have tried mobile
voting, Bailey said.
The Board scheduled
an administrative hearing for its next meeting, March 19 at 3 p.m., to
consider assessing a fine to Porter Town Council member Erik Wagner, who is
delinquent in submitting his 2019 annual campaign finance report. Assistant
Director of Elections Becky Rauch reported Wagner hasn’t filed his report
that was due last month following emails and a certified letter from Board
Attorney Monica Conrad. The Board may vote, if it’s vote is unanimous, not
to fine Wagner if he files his 2019 annual before the hearing. He is
expected to appear at the hearing, regardless.
Bailey also made a
reminder that pre-primary campaign finance reports are due April 17, and the
Board approved new procedures for dealing with candidates who are delinquent
in submitting campaign finance reports or have submitted incorrect reports.
The new procedures
establish a uniform method of contacting candidates who don’t file their
reports or file reports incorrectly, following a slew of candidates whose
filings contained errors in the last couple of voting cycles and a group of
candidates who needed to be reminded by certified letter from Conrad to file
The Elections and
Registration Office will now make a list of delinquent filers within seven
days of each due date, and the Election Board will authorize a reminder
notice for any candidates who are not in compliance. Candidates who fail to
comply after that notice will be subject to a hearing before the Board, as
allowed under the Administrative Procedures Act. Defective filers--those
whose reports contain errors--will be listed within 45 days of each due date
and given five days after receiving notice to make corrections.
Inspectors who work
locations with more than 2,500 active voters will be paid more in 2020,
since the Board adopted a resolution clarifying that inspectors will be paid
extra based on the number of active voters registered at the location
they’re serving. Bailey said all inspectors were given the base pay of $260
last year, regardless of whether or not they oversaw multiple precincts.
Bailey, Schoon, and
Rauch said deciding extra pay by number of active voters who may show up is
the most accurate way to predict traffic at polling places, as multiple
precincts don’t necessarily equate to higher volumes of voters. Bailey said
the change not only ensures inspectors are paid fairly, but makes voting
easier and eases stress on poll workers. With one inspector per location,
voters at locations that serve multiple precincts will no longer have to
wait in line by precinct and can instead use any line.
Inspectors will be
eligible for extra pay at the following rates: an extra $50 for sites with
2,500 to 3,499 active voters, an extra $75 for sites with 3,500 to 4,449
active voters, and an extra $100 for sites with more than 4,500 active
voters. Rauch said care will be given to assign inspectors to a site they
are comfortable with, and inspectors will be notified which positions are at
locations that carry extra pay.
The Board approved
Bailey’s list of five early voting sites and expanded hours. Early voting
has been expanded in anticipation of high turnout this year.
The five early
voting locations are: Hebron Community Center, Chesterton Town Hall, Porter
County Administration Building, North County Government Complex, and Union
Township Fire Station No.2. Hours will be the standard 8:30 a.m. to 3:30
p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and extended hours will be 8:30 a.m.
to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Bailey said early
voting times and locations and the mobile vote center will be advertised
through newspapers, the Porter County website, eBlasts, the League of Women
Voters, and something new this year--in annual tax bills. The Board will
conduct a public test of election equipment Friday, April 3 at 8 a.m., then
early voting starts April 7.
In other business,
Schoon and Rauch reported letters have gone out to all voters who are voting
at a different polling location than usual for the primary (3,900 voters
were affected). Elections and Registration is also reaching out to past poll
workers about working the upcoming primary and nursing homes and assisted
living facilities to set up travel voting boards. Schoon reported she’s
seeking extra early voting poll workers because she plans to split shifts on
Tuesdays and Thursdays.