Officials hope residents will see advantages of new vote centers

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GREENFIELD — Voters can start casting ballots for the May 6 primary election as early as Tuesday, and with vote centers a brand new concept to Hancock County this year, local officials are hoping to spread the word about where and when to vote.

Vote centers are community buildings throughout the county that replace traditional neighborhood-based polling sites. People may cast a ballot at any vote center, regardless of where they live. Some vote centers will be open prior to Election Day for early voting, and all 12 will be open on Election Day.

Starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday and continuing through the next four weeks, people may cast an early ballot at the Hancock County Courthouse. On April 26, several more sites will open.

Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore said at first, early voting will have a similar feel as in years past, because the courthouse will be the only place to cast a ballot for three weeks. The difference is, people will sign an electronic poll book to show they are voting.

“The setup of the absentee (early) voting is very seamless to the voter,” she said. “The voter will come in, sign the electronic poll book instead of signing the paper one.”

Moore said signing an e-poll book is like signing an electronic signature pad at the grocery store: It records the voter’s signature, and election workers are able to verify the person is casting a ballot. The voter will still show a piece of identification, like a driver’s license. A paper ballot based on the voter’s precinct including district-specific races or bond issues will be printed, and the voter will fill out the ballot by hand.

The courthouse is the first place people can vote early, which is no different than years past to accommodate busy schedules or people who simply want to avoid casting a ballot on Election Day.

Still, vote centers, which took more than a year of planning, will change the way people vote.

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