Chesterton Tribune

Porter County election officials propose combining precincts in Westchester Township

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Two voting precincts in Westchester Twp. will be merged with two others in restructuring currently being sought by officials in the Porter County voters registration office.

Plans show that Westchester 2 will be combined with Westchester 9, while Westchester 12 will absorb Westchester 15.

Similar mergers are proposed in Portage, but the county’s voter office plans to match the number of precincts being eliminated with those being added. When all said and done, the county should still have a total of 124 voter precincts.

Republican director Sundae Schoon and Democratic director Kathy Kozuszek presented proposed changes to the county commissioners Tuesday covering the entire county. The county will do away with eight precincts and add eight in areas where population numbers are rising.

In the north, Liberty and Jackson townships will both get two additional precincts. Precincts will also be added in south county in Morgan, Porter and Union townships.

“We’ve really grown in ten years,” said Kozuszek.

Precinct restructuring occurs every ten years following the national census. Population data is looked at to see which areas in the county are increasing in density and, with the help of the county surveyor, the voters office can guess where population figures will be in the next ten years.

The Indiana Election Division caps precincts at a 1,200-voter maximum which is why the rearranging of district lines is necessary.

The team also sought guidance from Michelle Brzycki, special projects coordinator with the Indiana Election Division and a Chesterton native.

Polling location changes, if any, will be determined at a later date but Schoon said the office will try to retain as many of the same locations as possible to keep confusion to a minimum.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, said he would like to consolidate as many polling places as possible.

The voters office will also be in charge of redrawing the county’s council district boundaries, the biggest changes being considered are adding South Haven precincts to District 2 which includes a large majority of Portage Twp.

Schoon said she hopes the new maps will be structured by townships rather than just precincts themselves. For example, District 1 encompassing Duneland contains one precinct in Portage Twp. and one or two others in Center Twp. and breaking off from those fragments would make it difficult for voters to understand which council district they live in, Schoon said.

The commissioners have the final say over where the lines are drawn and are expected to do so early next year.

The changes will take effect for the 2012 primary elections in May.

In a related matter, former state representative Ralph Ayres, who has made the push for the county to open a satellite location for early voting in the Duneland area, told the Chesterton Tribune the Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce announced their support for the initiative earlier this week.

Two possible locations for the site include the Chesterton Town Hall and the Westchester Thomas Library.




Posted 12/21/2011