By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
Because the draft plan for the proposed voter center concept in Howard County is not completed, the Election Board has delayed a vote on implementation.
Howard County Clerk Kim Wilson said Thursday the initial plan was to vote on beginning the use of vote centers for the 2014 election cycle.
This is the second time a vote has been delayed. On Feb. 20, the first delay occurred as the board sought legal advice on the procedure to be used.
She said the Election Board wants to make sure all the procedures required by the state are followed.
One of the steps that has to be completed before vote centers are approved is that in the plan the locations, with a street address for each location required.
“The Election Board at a meeting six months ago decided to move forward,” she said. “We decided to slow the process down.”
Newly-elected Democratic Party chairman Dave Tharp said the county has no plan on paper. Wilson countered there is a written plan, but is missing the specific locations.
Wilson said Tharp has indicated he will help find locations for the vote centers.
“We want to keep the Vote Centers bi-partisan and keep them out of schools,” she said.
State law requires one vote center for every 10,000 voters.
Also missing from the draft plan is copies of resolutions passed in support of the Vote Center plan adopted by the Howard County Council and the Howard County Commissioners. Both the council and commissioners have verbally expressed support for the concept.
Jim Watkins, the Republican member of the Election Board, said the intent is to eliminate the use of paper ballots and to purchase fewer machines.
The voting machines currently used by the county were purchased in 1998, and are in need of replacement.
“Either way, we will have to purchase new machines,” Watkins said.
The county will need to purchase between 80 and 100 voting machines if the vote center concept is adopted. The Election Board is considering ten vote centers for a county-wide election with a minimum of five located in Kokomo and one in Greentown and Russiaville.
The county would save $310,132 over a four-year span which would include three election cycles and the estimated cost of the new equipment is $300,000 or less.
The county would be required to purchase electronic poll books and electronic voting machines for each center. The electronic poll books would cost approximately $1,000 and the electronic voting machines $2,000.
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