Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Clerk says mobile voting moving forward

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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 meeting Tuesday.

Immediately after 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 to voting.

Bailey first 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 arrives.

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.

Campaign Finance Reports

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 their reports.

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.

Inspector Pay

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.

Early Voting

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.


Posted 2/20/2020





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