Hudson noted that the county in the past has staffed all 117 of its precinct polling places with five poll workers each, so adoption of the vote center program would drastically reduce the total number of poll workers required. She also believes the adoption of the vote center concept would result in a drastic savings in poll worker pay.
“We would go from spending about $56,000 per election (for poll workers) in a county-wide election,” Hudson said, “to approximately $28,000 per election in a county-wide election.”
Hudson also noted that the vote center concept would result in a decrease in precinct supply kits, a decrease in training cost due to less printed material, and an almost complete elimination of paper ballot waste.
“We have to print ballots for 100 percent of registered voters in the county,” Hudson said. “That’s very expensive when you consider how low our turnout usually is. In a four-year election cycle, we go through about 315,000 unused ballots, at approximately $120,000 of waste.”
Potential test this fall
Hudson has indicated she will test the vote center concept during a potential special election this fall connected to a two-part referendum being sought by the city of Goshen and Goshen Community Schools for the construction of a new Goshen Community Center and various school rehabilitation projects.
While the test will be on a much smaller scale than a regular count-wide election — it will only involve approximately 22,000 registered voters and three vote centers — Hudson said the results of the special election will help to determine if such a concept will work within the county on a grander scale.
“This smaller test will get the voters, the poll workers and the Election Board used to the electronic poll book and procedures we’ll need to use on election day,” Hudson said, “and the rest of the county will be watching to see if we can conduct this successfully for Elkhart County.”
In addition to the planned test, Hudson said she has also formed a study committee made up of experienced poll workers, technology specialists and others with expertise in the voting process that have been tasked with studying the pros and cons of the system. Several public meetings will also be held in the coming months in order to gather public input, she said, following which a plan for the county-wide vote center concept will be drafted and submitted to the state for approval.