Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 2, 2014

Elkhart County vote centers are a logical next step


— For three years, beginning in 2007, the Indiana Secretary of State’s office conducted a Vote Center Pilot Program in Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties. What was gleaned from that experiment was a successful, more efficient and more cost-effective model for running public elections.

Those results prompted the Indiana General Assembly to pass legislation in 2011 allowing all 92 counties in the state the option of moving from precinct-based voting to a vote center system. Precinct voting is geographical and registered voters are required to vote at a specific location based on where they live. Vote centers are a regional concept and allow registered voters the opportunity to vote at any center within the county that is convenient to them.

WE ARE ENCOURAGED that Elkhart County officials are close to moving forward with the vote center concept. A steering committee of 20 community leaders has been working hard to construct the framework for 24 vote centers in the county to be put to use for future elections. In the currently the county Election Board has runs and maintains 118 precinct polling locations, which requires an extensive amount of staffing and coordination.

“(Vote centers) give the voters more choice on where they can cast their ballot on Election Day,” Wendy Hudson, clerk of Elkhart County Circuit County, told WSBT-TV last week. “In precinct-style voting you have one precinct you’re required to cast your ballot. With vote centers, you can vote at any vote center in the county that’s convenient for you on Election Day.”

That means if you work in Goshen and live in Nappanee or Middlebury, you could vote during your break or lunch hour. It’s advanced technology that would make this possible. Instead of signing in and casting a paper ballot, registered voters would vote via an e-poll book, which is connected to a server that allows for real-time updates.

ACCORDING TO THE Elkhart County Vote Center Plan, there would be as many as 24 vote centers throughout the county — nine or 10 in Elkhart, seven in Goshen, two in Bristol and one each in New Paris, Millersburg, Middlebury, Nappanee and Wakarusa. Each of the locations would be ADA compliant, have adequate parking available and an Internet connection for use with the e-poll book. The committee also chose 10 voting center locations that are on Interurban Trolley routes. The Election Board must vote unanimously in favor of the vote centers in order to move forward.

Change can often be a difficult premise to deal with, but in our eyes vote centers are a logical initiative for Elkhart County to pursue. There is no reason not to take advantage of the technology available to us in the 21st century to save money and make the great American voting process more accessible to all. Good work, committee. We’re looking forward to seeing vote centers become a reality.

Vote Center Locations

Elkhart Locations (9 – Possibly 10)

• Trinity United Methodist Church, 2715 E Jackson St, Elkhart

• Omega Center & Abundant Life Ministries, 2130 Middlebury St, Elkhart (Orange Route)

• St James AME Church, 122 Dr Martin Luther King Dr, Elkhart (Green/Red/Orange Route)

• River of Life Community Church, 2626 Prairie St, Elkhart (Green/Orange Route)

• Calvary Assembly of God, 1010 E Mishawaka Rd, Elkhart (Orange Route)

• Calvary United Methodist Church, 2222 W Indiana Ave, Elkhart (Green Route)

• New Hope United Methodist Church, 28765 CR 4, Elkhart

• Tolson Center, 1320 Benham Ave, Elkhart (Red Route)

• Northside Gym, 300 Lawrence St, Elkhart (Blue Route)

• Jimtown High School Gym, CR 3, Elkhart (tentative)

Goshen Locations (7)

• Grace Community Church, 20076 XCR 36, Goshen

• Elkhart County Public Services Bldg, 4230 Elkhart Rd, Goshen (Red Route)

• Faith United Methodist Church, 22045 CR 18, Goshen (Orange Route)

• Maple City Chapel, 2015 Lincolnway E, Goshen (Red Route)

• Pleasant View Mennonite Church, 58529 CR 23, Goshen

• Salvation Army, 1013 N Main, Goshen

• Trinity Lutheran Church, 202 S Greene Rd, Goshen

New Paris Locations (1)

•New Paris Missionary Church, 67621 SR 15, New Paris

Millersburg Locations (1)

• Millersburg Fire Station, 500 Carriage Ln, Millersburg

Middlebury Locations (1)

• Middlebury Town Hall, 418 N Main St, Middlebury

Nappanee Locations (1)

• First Brethren Church, 1600 N Main St, Nappanee

Wakarusa Locations (1)

• Bible Baptist Church, 205 E Waterford St, Wakarusa

Bristol Locations (2)

• Bristol United Methodist Church, 201 S Division St, Bristol

• First Baptist Church, 53953 CR 17, Bristol

The Steering Committee

Wendy Hudson — Clerk of the Circuit Court

Wayne Kramer — Republican Member of Elkhart County Election Board

Arvis Dawson — Democratic Member of the Elkhart County Election Board (2013 – Present)

Mike Leasor — Democratic Member of Elkhart County Election Board (2011-2013)

Frank Lucchese — Elkhart County Board of Commissioners

Darryl Riegsecker — Elkhart Country Council

Mary Nisly — Republican Party County Chair (2013- Present)

Dale Stickel — Republican Party County Chair (2011-2012)

Shari Mellin — Democratic Party County Chair

Scott Mills — County Information & Technology Liaison

Chris Anderson — Chief Deputy Clerk

Chad Clingerman — Office Manager of Voter Registration & Election Board

Mary Jane Hiles — Democratic Absentee Election Board Employee

Sharon Harder — Republican Poll Worker

Mike Settles — Democratic Poll Worker

Jan Shively — Republican Poll Worker, Vice Precinct Committeeman

Richard Shively — Republican Poll Worker, Precinct Committeeman 6

Andy Williams — Democratic Committee Member

Don Schuler — Democratic Poll Worker & Attorney

Mike Mascola — Let’s Move Michiana

Peter Todd — Republican Poll Worker & Attorney