By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
— How residents of Howard County cast ballots in future elections could undergo a change starting with the 2014 primary election.
The Howard County Election Board Wednesday set a public information meeting on vote centers for 2 p.m. Feb. 20 in Room 338 of the Howard County Administration Center, 220 N. Main St.
Following the public session, members of the election board are expected to vote to implement vote centers in Howard County.
The concept of vote centers was endorsed by both the Howard County commissioners and the Howard County Council last year.
Howard County Clerk Kim Wilson said members of the public will be afforded the opportunity to ask questions during the Wednesday meeting.
Election Systems and Software, which currently provides the election equipment for the county, will provide an information sheet for the public. The company could provide the county with voting machines and electronic poll books.
The proposal is for five vote centers to be open for early voting and 10 centers operating on Election Day.
The early voting centers could be located in the four corners of Kokomo and the courthouse, Wilson said. There would be vote centers on Election Day in both Greentown and Russiaville.
Figures provided by Wilson showed that in the last three election cycles for 2007, 2008 and 2010, the county spent $159,301 for poll workers and $19,180 on meals.
The estimated cost for vote centers for three elections is $55,125 for poll workers and $5,775 for meals.
She said instead of needing 350 poll workers on Election Day at the county’s 78 precincts, the number needed to work at a voter center would be greatly reduced.
Wilson said the county would be required to purchase electronic poll books and electronic voting machines for each center. She said there still would be a need for paper ballots for mail-in ballots and those voters confined to their homes or in a facility.
The electronic poll books would cost approximately $1,000 and the electronic voting machines, $2,000.
Each voting center would have at least one voting machine that complies with the American Disabilities Act.
Wilson said the intent is not to have any vote centers located in schools because of safety concerns.
Indiana first experimented with vote centers in 2007, and Cass County has been a part of the pilot program and continues to use vote centers.