Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 19, 2013

Cast a vote for centers


THE ISSUE: Adoption of the vote center concept by Howard County.

OUR VIEW: We urge the county election board to approve vote centers for the 2014 primary. They’re less expensive to operate than traditional polling precincts and more people-friendly to the average voter.

There’ll be no primary election this coming May. Howard County Clerk Kim Wilson likely is relieved.

For the past several years, she’s ensured voting machines were ready to take ballots by cannibalizing some broken models to keep the others operational.

Howard County just can’t find parts for its aging machines.

State certification for the county’s voting machines expires this year. They all must be replaced.

Wilson and other county officials have been studying the possibility of adopting the vote center concept, which was expanded two years ago by the state Legislature. We’re confident county leaders have discovered vote centers to be less expensive to operate than traditional polling precincts and more people-friendly for the average voter.

The county election board will hold a public meeting on vote centers in room 338 of the administration center, 220 N. Main St., at 2 p.m. Wednesday. After the public session, board members are expected to vote to implement vote centers in Howard County.

We urge them to vote unanimously in favor of the concept.

Vote centers give residents a chance to cast ballots at the time and place they find most convenient. Using electronic poll books, each voter’s unique ballot – whether from Honey Creek or Jackson townships – can be produced at any vote center. The poll books update immediately, ensuring a voter casts only one ballot.

Cass County residents have cast ballots at vote centers since 2008, and voter turnout in the countywide 2010 general election suggests they encourage higher participation. Voter turnout in Cass was 51 percent that year; it was 43.9 percent in Howard County.

Vote centers also are cheaper to operate. In Cass, the county clerk consolidated 40 precincts to seven vote centers in 2008, reducing the number of voting machines and poll workers required to conduct the election.

Every Indiana county would realize a savings by using vote centers, the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute says. Three years ago, the non-partisan organization estimated Howard County could save $35,000 a year.

Switching from polling precincts to vote centers requires a unanimous vote of the county election board, and that’s the way it should be. This is a bipartisan process, and neither political party should be able to make such a change without the support of the other.

But we’re confident that after chatting with folks in Cass, Tippecanoe and Wayne counties, Howard County officials will adopt the concept before the 2014 primary election.