HANCOCK COUNTY – Election officials reported one of the county’s vote centers was accessed during non-voting hours but that there was no breach to voting materials or equipment.

The Hancock County Election Board issued a news release on the incident this week reporting it became aware Monday morning that the vote center at Buck Creek Township Fire Station 71 was accessed during non-voting hours sometime between 3 and 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. The vote center had been open that day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Board representatives have confirmed that no breach to voter information, election equipment, ballots or other election materials occurred due to the bipartisan security procedures in place at every vote center pursuant to state law,” the news release said, adding that law enforcement officials were notified.

The Indiana Election Division has been notified of the incident along with actions taken and has advised that additional measures need not be taken at this time, according to the release. No other Hancock County voting location was affected, the release continues.

Hancock County Clerk Lisa Lofgreen, whose office includes the county election division and who serves on the county election board, said she couldn’t elaborate on who accessed the vote center and what their intentions may have been, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

The vote center is located in the fire station’s community room. Lofgreen said exterior doors providing access to the community room were locked at the time of the unauthorized access but that the access occurred via an interior door.

Lofgreen noted that when a county vote center closes for the day, a vote center judge – a Democrat, and inspector – a Republican, count the ballots submitted that day to verify they match the number of voter check-ins. The officials then fill out a sheet that includes the tally of ballots, which gets bound to the ballots before going into a transport case. A seal also goes on the case, which is recorded on the sheet as well.

The transport case is then placed into another case, which has two locks, one of which can only be accessed by a Democratic election official and the other by a Republican election official. When a transport case is opened for counting on Election Day, officials verify the seal hasn’t been broken and that it matches the seal information inside the case.

“We take our roles in safeguarding the process of elections very seriously,” Lofgreen said. “We’re confident that the bipartisan controls that we have set within each vote center prevented any access to any critical materials.”

She also noted that no vote tabulation takes place during early voting.

“There’s absolutely no possibility of any effect on election results,” she said.

Steps were taken to ensure unauthorized access at the vote center doesn’t occur again, Lofgreen said, including discussing the matter with fire department staff.

Along with Lofgreen, a Republican, the county election board is made up of Republican lawyer John Apple and Democratic retired lawyer Bob Bogigian.

“The system worked because we had safeguards in place,” Apple said.