News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 11, 2013

Vigo Election Board looking at creating voting centers

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County Election Board on Tuesday voted in favor of drafting a plan to establish vote centers to be in place for the 2014 elections.

The next step is up to Vigo County Clerk David Crockett, who will have to formulate the draft plan. Crockett said he’ll start by determining the exact locations of at least 15 to 17 vote centers in the county.

Once the draft plan is completed, the Election Board will hold a public hearing to present the draft plan, which will be made available to the public. The plan can also be placed on the county’s website.

Under state law, after the presentation of the draft plan, the board is to accept written public comments on the draft plan. After at least 30 days from the first public hearing, the Election Board is to hold a second public hearing at which the board can consider comments.

The board can then approve the draft plan or approve an amended plan.

The order to approve the plan must be a unanimous vote of the Election Board.  The Vigo County Council and the Vigo County Board of Commissioners must also approve of the plan.

The board also heard a presentation about electronic poll books from Jeremy Burton of Election Systems & Software Inc. The company currently provides the books to Johnson County, one of seven counties that already has vote centers. ES&S also has an existing contract with Vigo County to provide voting machines.

“We are the only company to actually build a poll book. Others are just laptops with software. We took a voting machine approach,” Burton said, with a durable design that lasts at least 10 years and “goes through federal and state standards and approvals,” he said.

The poll book would allow voters to use their driver’s licenses to be scanned at the poll for identification. It would also include an electronic pad for a voter to sign to allow a poll worker to match the signature of the voter on the electronic poll book. The poll books cost less than $900 each, he said.

The county would convert to the use of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, upon which a voter would use a touchscreen to vote for a candidate, instead of filling in a black oval on a paper ballot.

“I am excited,” Bionca Gambill, former Linton Township Trustee, told the Election Board about vote centers. Gambill said she thinks the use of DRE machines will also be better for voters, especially older ones. “The font can be changed to be much larger and you can just touch the screen,” she said.

Vanderburgh, Tippecanoe, Switzerland, Blackford, Cass, Wayne and Johnson counties now use vote centers, and Floyd County will offer them in 2014. Howard County is nearing completion of steps needed to also offer the centers in 2014, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.

Vigo County would save money in part by reducing polling places and poll workers. The county had 87 voting precincts, located in 56 polling places during the 2012 election. The cost of the primary and general elections was nearly $554,000.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@