Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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February 27, 2013

Vote centers a dead issue for Goshen referendum

GOSHEN — State- and local-level funding issues have stalled a trial run of the vote center program in Elkhart County.

Circuit Court Clerk Wendy Hudson has been touting the effort that was enabled through state legislation signed in 2011. Under the program, traditional polling places would be replaced with vote centers spread throughout the county. Voters would be able to vote where they choose, regardless of the precinct in which they live.

The program was set to be tested locally this fall during a referendum on the proposed community center in Goshen. That plan has gone awry.

Hudson wanted to use the vote centers in the referendum as a test to get the program ready for 2014. However, she said Tuesday that while Elkhart County Commissioners and Council members support the idea, they can’t back funding to implement it for 2014.

The other fiscal roadblock involves V-STOP (voting system technical oversight program). Hudson indicated the state funding for V-STOP — a required program for vendors to certify their voting equipment — is gone.

According to Hudson, this creates a roadblock for Elkhart County officials to purchase new equipment of any type. She also said no one at the state level is quite sure how vendors are going to recertify their existing equipment or certify new equipment.

Hudson said she and the County Commissioners feel it will be in the best interests of voters not to use the vote centers this fall. She feels having the vote center model for the special election and then switching back to precinct-style voting will confuse voters.

Nonetheless, Hudson would like to see vote centers in Elkhart County at some point.

“We’ll keep developing it, and talking about it...,” she said Tuesday. “I’m hopeful at some point we can move toward vote centers.”

Hudson indicated local elections will be conducted with the county’s existing voting equipment.  

The funding issues will impact the referendum for the proposed community center this fall, said Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman.

“We will be using precinct voting and not the (trial run) vote center program. We are at the mercy of state legislators,” Kauffman said. “I know Wendy is disappointed we can’t try it this fall.”

Goshen News reporter Sherry Van Arsdall contributed to this report.

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