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Board mulls adjustments to vote center system

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Marcia Moore
Marcia Moore

GREENFIELD — The county’s newly implemented vote center system will undergo some minor tweaks before the November election in hopes of making the process more efficient for both voters and poll workers.

Anticipated changes include faster ballot-printing and upgraded electronic poll book software. There could also be minor adjustments to some of the county’s polling sites, including adding staff at the Hancock County Public Library, which proved to be one of the busiest polling locations.

day with the representatives from Election Systems and Software, the equipment vendor for the county’s 12 vote centers, which opened in time for the May primary.

Vote centers are located in community buildings throughout the county and replace traditional precinct-based polling sites. Discussed for more than a year locally, Hancock County officials decided in 2013 to switch to the vote center model – one of 16 counties in the state to do so.

The May primary marked the first time local residents could cast a ballot at any center in the county, regardless of their home address.

Proponents of vote centers have said that flexibility is one of the biggest advantages of the new system.

Friday, Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore said she spoke with a voter who told her she voted for the first time because a polling place was near her Hamilton County workplace.

“She could pop over to McCordsville on her lunch and vote and go back to work knowing that she could never have gotten to her precinct in time,” Moore said. “She had never voted because of that.”

Overall, however, turnout for the primary did not improve appreciably from four years earlier.

The county also saw minor cost savings because of implementing vote centers, Moore said.

In 2012, the county utilized 220 election workers. Under the vote center system, that number dropped to 140.

That saved the county about $8,700 in mileage, meal costs and other expenses, Moore told the board.

Jeremy Burton, Indiana manager for Election Systems and Software, addressed the board Friday about what voters should expect in November.

“We thought that overall the election was a tremendous success,” he said. “The first vote-center election has always had some challenges for it because it’s new for everybody, and it’s nerve-wracking.”

With the previous model of voting, a person who went to the wrong precinct polling location would have to be turned away or made to cast a provisional ballot, which might not have counted at the end of Election Day.

With vote centers, poll workers can pull any ballot from any location. It doesn’t matter if a person lives in Greenfield and votes in McCordsville, for example: Their ballot specific to Greenfield and its district races can be printed and used.

The print-on-demand system wasn’t as fast as poll workers had hoped, however. The plan for fall is to double the number of printers to help lines move faster.

There could ultimately be some changes to which centers are used as early vote centers; in May, some sites were open on Election Day only while others allowed early voting.

Moore made a motion at Friday’s meeting to utilize Brown’s Chapel Wesleyan and Brookville Road Community churches as vote centers on Election Day only.

That motion was tabled until the board reconvenes in August.

Board member Bob Bogigian said he was pleased with the switchover from traditional voting sites to vote centers.

“Overall, I think it went very well,” Bogigian said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

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