Goshen News, Goshen, IN

November 8, 2013

Vote centers are a good next step

Goshen News

---- — A step in the right direction has been taken to modernize Indiana’s election process.

Wednesday, a day after just 15 percent of Goshen Community Schools voters went to the polls to decide a $17.15 million building project, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced that state officials will begin certifying companies who want to provide electronic poll books. Those books are where the names and addresses of registered voters are kept. It’s crucial that such books contain the most current information and also be totally accurate, so certification of software and hardware used for those books makes good sense.

THIS LATEST MOVE toward modernization has us remembering that it was only a few years ago that scanning machines became a part of the vote tallying process. Those machines are still in use in Elkhart County and are the reason vote totals are known just a couple hours after polls close. When those machines were adopted for use, they were the latest, greatest gizmos in vote counting. They remain reliable, but they are out-dated technology.

The county now has at least one more modern touch-screen voting machine in each precinct during elections. Those machines have become popular because they allow election boards to meet the requirements of federal legislation that mandates handicapped voters be allowed to vote without assistance. Those machines can be configured for such voters, but they can also be used by everyone. Election officials said that in Tuesday’s election, the touch-screens were popular at polls at Shanklin Park and Greencroft.

VOTES FROM THE SCANNING and touch-screen machines are stored on memory cards, which are then processed on a computer at the county’s vote-counting center. The process is quick, accurate and provides details about turnout and voting percentages.

We think that vote centers using electronic poll books and touch-screen voting machines would be an improvement over the current system and also save taxpayers money. Instead of having to staff 117 precinct polling locations, as is done now in Elkhart County primary and general elections, the county might have as few as 20 vote centers. And a big plus in countywide elections would be that voters could go to the nearest center to vote and not have to travel back to their neighborhood precinct. That convenience might lure those people who say they can’t get away from work to take a few minutes of their lunch time to cast a ballot.

VOTE CENTERS offer a lot of positives for Indiana voters and we encourage the Elkhart County Election Board to continue to investigate if such centers are a good fit here. We think that by combining existing technology with fewer polling places, the voting process will become simpler, quicker and less expensive. Let’s move ahead.