Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 27, 2014

Parties far apart on vote center concept

Number of centers is key sticking point

Two new members were sworn in to the Howard County Election Board Friday, as Howard County Clerk Kim Wilson gears up for the 2014 elections.

One thing Wilson won’t be worrying about, at least this year, is the idea of establishing vote centers in Howard County.

The idea would involve consolidating polling places down to a much smaller number of universal polling sites as a way to save the county money each election.

Miami County went to the system last year, but Howard County officials scrapped one attempt last year after discovering state guidelines hadn’t been followed.

That Republican-led proposal would have narrowed the number of voting centers to 10 throughout the county, drawing objections from Democrats who noted that only four of the centers would be inside city limits.

One of the city sites was to be inside the Howard County Courthouse, meaning voters would have been required to take off their belts and jackets and empty their pockets at the courthouse metal detectors.

Howard County Democratic Party chairman David Tharp said Friday he’d prefer somewhere between 22 and 25 vote centers countywide, while Howard County Republican Party chairman Craig Dunn said 10 centers “would be plenty.”

“If you’re going to have 25 voting centers, we might as well stick to what we’ve got,” Dunn said. “We agreed to 10, and we’re going to have 10, as long as I’m chairman and my election board member agrees with me.”

The vote center concept would allow any voter in the county to vote at any vote location. Currently, voters must travel to a specific polling place to cast a vote.

In the 2012 election, there were 37 polling places in Howard County open on Election Day. With vote centers, each voting place would be open for at least a week leading up to Election Day, although Tharp said he’d like to see a 10-day window.

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