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March 4, 2013

Election board to consider vote centers

Centers could be implemented by the 2014 election cycle

The Howard County Election Board Thursday will consider implementing vote centers — a move that would save the county money in the long run.

The election board is set to meet at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Howard County Clerk’s office on the first floor of the Howard County courthouse.

The board conducted a public hearing on Feb. 20 to get input from the public on the proposed vote center concept.

The election board, Howard County Council and Howard County Board of Commissioners have all given preliminary approval for the model.

Clerk Kim Wilson said the intent is to have up to 10 vote centers open for county-wide elections in the future, but the locations have not been determined.

She said the equipment has to be purchased through a bidding process.

“We have a plan,” she said. “We’ll start with 10 vote centers, and the number can be adjusted.”

As required by state law, Howard County would implement electronic poll books and electronic voting if the vote center concept is adopted.

It could happen as soon as the 2014 election cycle.

Wilson said the county spends $140,000 per year to print ballots, and the majority are thrown out following an election.

The proposal calls for five vote centers to be open for early voting and 10 centers to be operating on election day.

The early voting centers could be located in the four corners of Kokomo and the courthouse, Wilson said. They would be open for three days prior to an election, and the courthouse would be open 28 days before election day.

There would be vote centers on election day in both Greentown and Russiaville.

Wilson said the county would save $310,132 over a four-year span, which would include three election cycles.

“The estimated cost of the equipment is $300,000 or less,” she said. “After the first three elections, the county would realize the savings.”

Wilson said the county would be required to purchase electronic poll books and electronic voting machines for each center. She said there would still be a need for paper ballots for mail-in ballots and for people voting confined.

The electronic poll books would cost about $1,000 and the electronic voting machines $2,000.

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