News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 22, 2012

Money to improve voting access

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County is set to improve three voting locations with some of the last of the state’s dollars from the Help America Vote Act.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson was in Vigo County Thursday morning to award $21,500 to improve voting access for people with disabilities. The money will make improvements at the Fontanet Firehouse, the Seelyville Town Hall and the West Vigo Community Center, all voting locations.

The sites were selected by the three Vigo County Commissioners, said Pat Mansard, Vigo County clerk.

“This is going to help us to give better service to all of our handicapped voters at the polling places,” said Mansard, who oversees elections in the county.

The Fontanet Firehouse will be getting a handicap parking spot, a ramp and an accessible door. The Seelyville Town Hall is getting a ramp and a handicap accessible entry. The West Vigo Community Center is getting modifications to doors and hardware to meet Americans with Disability Act requirements.

Lawson was also delivering $10,000 HAVA checks Thursday in Vermillion and Parke counties.

The controversial 2000 presidential election in Florida, with its “hanging chads” and “pregnant chads,” gave birth to HAVA in 2002. The act provided about $3.2 billion in federal funding to make election improvements across the nation.

In addition to replacing virtually all punch card systems across the U.S., HAVA money has allowed nearly all states to establish systems for provisional ballots and provide a statewide voter registration system. Only one or two counties in Idaho still uses punch cards, said David Becker of the Pew Center on the States, interviewed in December.

When HAVA was passed in 2002, 29 Indiana counties, including Vigo, used the punch-card method of voting. Today, no Hoosier counties do, according to the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.

Over the past decade, HAVA funding, which has totaled $71.5 million in Indiana, has also paid for Vigo County’s transition to new optical scan electronic voting machines, Mansard said.

“It’s just really wonderful that when we have something that is mandated by the federal government that they actually put some money behind it and give us the money to implement the good that they are trying to accomplish,” Mansard said Thursday at a brief news conference with Lawson in the Vigo County Courthouse.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

 

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