News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

February 20, 2014

Editorial: A strong move forward for elections

Vote centers demonstrate statewide improvements

TERRE HAUTE — In a little more than two months, voters will go to the polls for what is known as the midterm primary election. Although this is not a presidential election year (everyone can breathe a sigh of relief for that), there are major races on the ballot, including congressional, statehouse and courthouse.

It is important to note that major progress is occurring this year in the process of conducting local elections. Thanks to a progressive move by the state and quick response from Vigo County, 18 new vote centers will be available for the first time for the May 6 primary.

Each of the 18 centers, which replace the old system of precinct polling places, will be equipped with electronic, touch-screen voting equipment. What’s more, registered voters can go to any of the 18 centers to cast votes. The system that’s been installed in Vigo County will track voters who cast ballots, eliminating the chance of fraud by anyone trying to vote more than once.

Vote centers are being rolled out incrementally across the state. Vigo is the first area county to adopt the new system, which will be a major improvement from its former punch-card system.

Implementing modern technology is seen as an important ingredient in making elections better for all. Recent elections across the country have been fraught with problems, and there is a nationwide movement to improve them.

Recently, a presidential commission reported that the “problems that hinder the efficient administration of elections are both identifiable and solvable” and issued recommendations. It should come as no surprise that the fundamental principles in the report lean heavily on the simple concepts of good planning and better equipment.

Here’s a few of the commission’s specific recommendations:

n An expansion of online voter registration by the states to enhance both accuracy of the voter rolls and efficiency.

n Having all states update and exchange their voter registration lists to create the most accurate lists possible to increase registration rates, reduce costs and protect against fraud.

n The expansion of voting before Election Day, recognizing that the majority of states now provide either mail balloting or in-person early voting and that voters are increasingly seeking these options.

n Recognizing and addressing the impending crisis in voting technology as machines bought 10 years ago with post-2000 federal funds wear out and require replacement with no federal appropriations on the horizon.

n The increased use of electronic pollbooks for greater accuracy and efficiency;

n Assuring that polling places are accessible to all voters, are located close to where voters live and are designed to function smoothly.

n Increasing and enhancing training and recruitment of poll workers, in the recognition that volunteer poll workers are voters’ primary source of contact during the actual voting process.

When it comes to being a voter-friendly state, Indiana has its problems. But the state has made progress, as Vigo County’s venture into vote centers shows. There is a long way to go, but we have increasing confidence that Indiana will get there.

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