Whether or not Indiana State University will be part of a vote center plan for Vigo County remains unclear.

A request to seek funds for a three-year lease of space in The Meadows from the Vigo County Council did not reach discussion on Tuesday night at a Vigo County Council meeting.

The matter died when the council did not unanimously approve suspending a council rule to permit consideration of an appropriation previously denied for the current year budget.

The proposed lease was touted, under a plan from the Vigo County Election Board, as a measure to allow vote machines to be located at ISU.

Councilman Jim Mann, who served as chair of the council’s 2018 budget committee, said the Vigo County Election Board has funding in its 2018 budget for the Vigo County Annex to open for about a month prior to the May 8 election. He said that plan also allows for five early vote centers to be open for a week prior to the election and to be open on election day. There would be 14 additional vote centers on election day.

The election board has until March 7 to submit a vote center plan to the Indiana Election Division. The vote center plan must be approved unanimously by the county election board. 

The election board next meets Tuesday. It’s a meeting board Chair Kara Anderson said will mean another review of the board’s election budget.

“We will have to sit down and look at what all our options are,” Anderson said Wednesday. 

“I want us to have the best vote center locations that are central, convenient, ADA-compliant, and The Meadows was one of them, so we will just have to back up and see what we can figure out,” Anderson said. “It is dollars. Without the dollars, I don’t know what we can do.”

The last time ISU was considered for a vote center was in March, 2016.

Then ISU president Daniel J. Bradley said the university would pay for voting equipment and provide parking.

At the time, Anderson said the election board is not authorized to accept funds and said the issue would set a precedent for other agencies paying for election equipment, a measure at the time she called “being a sponsor.”

On Wednesday, she said, “It is a matter of getting enough equipment in the early vote centers. This is an early vote center thing, we have to have the early centers up and efficient,” she said. 

“The original plan that I voted against was moving equipment out of the library. The Vigo County Public Library is for everyone in Vigo County. I am not in favor of reducing the size of what we have; what we are trying to do is make the five early vote centers larger,” Anderson said.

“Until we sit down and look at what equipment we’ve got and where we can go on the east side, we don’t know — which is what we talked about in the [Feb. 8 election board] meeting. I am not going to talk about ISU right now,” Anderson said. “We were pinning some hopes on this Meadows Center, and it was expressed in that [Feb. 8] meeting,” Anderson said. 

At County Council 

Several residents voiced support for use of The Meadows as a vote center site and as a permanent storage site for county voting equipment.

Carolyn Callecod, president of the League of Women Voters of Vigo County, voiced support of The Meadows as well as placing a vote center at ISU.

“Our organization has been striving for a voting center at ISU since two years ago,” Callecod said. “We must get our young people involved in this democratic process that we have or we are going to lose our democracy.”

Before a vote on suspending the rule, Council President Aaron Loudermilk voiced concern about funding The Meadows and placing machines at ISU.

“I don’t understand if the desire is to have a vote center at ISU, why the two, [ISU and The Meadows], are tied,” he said.

“I don’t think that should be a consideration. … It should be irrelevant if this council feels like there is funding for The Meadows location. We should have ISU regardless. The two should not be tied together,” Loudermilk said.

Callecod, who attended the previous election board meeting, responded.

“That is how it was explained to us. In order for ISU [machines] to be a reality, they had to have the machines from Baesler’s and the [nearby] church. If it went to [The] Meadows, they could take machines from those two and use some of those and take like three machines to ISU,” Callecod said.

Callecod went on to discuss previous election board meetings.

“I found it very irritating,” Callecod said, “is the last time there was talk about if [ISU] students want to vote, they can walk a few blocks to the library. But at the same time, there were two voting centers at Baesler’s and the church across the street, which we were told was for overflow,” she said. 

“They didn’t want to inconvenience those people, but it was just fine with them” to dismiss ISU students, Callecod said. “They are young, they can walk. It was the appearance of favoritism toward that group, that location, as opposed to our students who we so desperately want to be involved in our democratic process.”

Councilwoman Vicki Weger quickly responded.

“Carolyn, it is not the appearance of favoritism. It is favoritism,” Weger said.

Councilman Mann suggested the election board has machines to use, pointing out that a new location — Vigo County’s Solid Waste Management Office — is slated for seven machines, while the Vigo County Public Library, Booker T. Washington Community Center and Operating Engineers each will have nine machines.

The West Vigo Community Center and Memorial United Methodist Church also have nine machines under an equipment delivery plan that Vigo County Clerk Brad Newman presented to the board.

Newman said he previously asked for funds for The Meadows, but was questioned during the County Council 2018 budget meetings if other sites would want rent.

The Meadows, Newman said, is under new ownership, and a low-cost rent would have allowed the county to use vote machines formerly used at Baseler’s Market and machines targeted for use at the Memorial United Methodist Church to be combined at The Meadows, with excess machines to be used at ISU.

“It is a [vote] machine issue, so we have reserves and have machines throughout the county,” Newman said.

After Tuesday’s council meeting, Newman said the election board will have to once more review its vote center plan.

“I don’t know the next step; we will come up with something,” Newman said.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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