To the editor:
Many thanks go to all the Hancock County poll workers who worked at the various vote centers during the May primaries. Thank you for the outstanding job you all did to ensure as many voters as possible had the chance to vote.
These poll workers operated under undue stress because the Hancock County Election Board failed to adequately staff and equip the vote centers with enough workers and working equipment to process the voters and ballots in a timely manner.
The election board knew on April 7 that it did not have enough poll workers to staff the vote centers. Unable to recruit sufficient poll workers, the election board chose to reduce the staffing for all vote centers down to three.
County officials cannot fix what is broken if they refuse to identify all the deficiencies that occurred during our primary. From the information I have collected from poll workers, voters, electioneers and others, the county vote Center plans either collapsed or were not followed on May 3.
Security/contingency plans required by Indiana Code 3-11-18.1-7 seemed to be nonexistent on May 3, as unauthorized people were allowed into voting areas, downloads to equipment were made and problem equipment was allowed to be put back in use after being worked on.
Equipment failures and software updates incapacitated several vote centers when polls open; one didn’t open until 7:30 a.m. Delayed voting due to equipment problems at several centers resulted in disenfranchised voters walking away without ever voting.
There is a need for more spare equipment to be on hand when failures occur. Election Systems and Software, the county’s equipment vendor, has received complaints in the past about equipment and software. (See votersunite.org PDF, New York State Board of Election letter to the Governor.)
Poll worker training was insufficient. Poll workers could not operate the poll books, determine proper voter chutes, properly display sample ballots and properly close the polls. Sufficient supplies (ropes or railing to identify chutes and ledgers or unique stamps to identify voters in line at time of poll closing) were not available to workers. Some poll workers didn’t know a poll is a room located within a building where ballots are cast and the 50-foot chute starts at the entrance of that room.
McCordsville Town hall was identified by a precinct committeeman in November of 2012 as being inadequate before vote center plans were adopted. Parking lot too small, one entry into and out of the facility creates a serious safety hazard and is not suitable for handicapped and elderly voters who are forced to stand in a line that was reported to be more than 370 feet long when the poll closed.
Other, more suitable, buildings need to be identified, which provide far better parking and shelter against inclement weather.
The county clerk and election board have taken action to increase the number of vote centers for the November General Election. How do they plan to operate and equip more centers when they can’t even handle those that they have?
George R. Langston