Feedback sought on vote centersSeptember 15, 2021
By CANDY NEAL
Two Election Day voting locations will change and two others will consolidate into one, according to a vote centers plan being considered by the Dubois County Election Board.
But voters will be able to go to any location on that day to cast their ballot, instead of being required to go to a specific precinct location.
The Dubois County Election Board is looking to have vote centers in the county, instead of the traditional polling places. The purpose for the change is convenience, Dubois County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock said.
“As we vote today, on Election Day you must vote at your precinct-specific location,” she said. “If we become a vote center (county), on Election Day anyone could vote anywhere.”
If approved by the election board, there will be nine vote centers, with the majority of them at the current polling locations. Those are:
• Celestine Community Center
• Dubois Ruritan Park
• Holland United Methodist Church
• Huntingburg Event Center
• Jasper Middle School
• St. Anthony Community Center
• St. Mary’s Community Center in Ireland
• Thyen-Clerk Cultural Center in Jasper
• Tri-County YMCA in Ferdinand
To make the change, a study had to be done of the current voting locations, including the early voting sites, to evaluate where the vote centers would be best located. “We have to evaluate the whole process,” Kippenbrock said. “And we have to tell in our plan, here’s when and where we’re voting through the whole process.”
Election board members worked with a committee of local people to complete the study and compile that information into a proposed plan. That completed plan is located on the county clerk’s page of the Dubois County Government website, www.duboiscountyin.org.
The plan evaluated all the polling locations used for early voting and on Election Day to make sure they were ADA-compliant. One early voting location, the St. Henry Fire Department was not compliant. “The step going into that building was too tall,” Kippenbrock said. “So we can move right across the street to the St. Henry CK of A.
In the plan, three changes would be made for Election day vote sites.
The state statute allowing vote centers requires that at least two vote center sites must be open and available to voters on the two Saturdays before Election Day. To satisfy that requirement, the Huntingburg Event Center will continue to have voting hours on those two Saturdays.
The other place will be in Ferdinand. But the location will be changed to comply.
Traditionally, early voting was held at the Ferdinand Branch Library and Election Day voting at the Ferdinand Community Center, which is a popular site for events like wedding receptions.
“It makes sense that we vote in Ferdinand, but that wouldn’t meet the statute,” Kippenbrock said.
The new plan is for voting to move to the Tri-County YMCA.
“It’s still a very neutral location,” she said. “It meets the statute. And it still accommodates the voters.”
Other vote sites in the county will still be open for voting at various times the 28 days before the election, like they have been in the past.
Another change in the plan is to consolidate two Jasper voting locations into one.
“As we went through the process of looking at locations,” Kippenbrock said, “we said, ‘Where do people turn out to vote and where do they not turn out?’ ”
The study showed that the polling place at the Jasper Arts Center and the one that was at the Arnold F. Habig Community Center this last election had the lowest voter turnout. So those two sites are being combined into one vote center and placed at the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center.
The third big change was moving voting from the Northeast Dubois Intermediate School to the Dubois Ruritan Park. “That park building is beautiful and we can get better internet connectivity,” Kippenbrock said. “And we will not interfere with the school’s system.”
People have asked how poll workers will make sure that no one votes at one place and then at another. Kippenbrock said the electronic poll books will keep track of who votes where and will not let someone vote a second time.
The poll books are already used. A voter’s license is scanned at the poll book, which is an iPad, and that person signs the poll book on the tablet
“That’s an electronic device that’s connected to the Cloud. It syncs, at a minimum, every two minutes. So when it syncs, it says (as an example), ‘Hey, Amy Kippenbrock just checked in,’ ” she said. “So if I would try to leave that location and go to a different location, and I would sign in at a different location, it would say, ‘Sorry, you can’t check in here, because you’ve already checked in somewhere else.’ It’s is not going to let you automatically go through the process.”
To make sure there are no internet issues, so that the poll books stay synced and current, stronger hotspots will be purchased for locations that have weaker internet signals, Kippenbrock said.
The election board is looking to get feedback from the public on the proposed plan. Comments and questions can be emailed to Kippenbrock, a member of the board, at email@example.com. She will forward those emails to the other two election board members, Roger Messmer and John Birk.
Comments can also be given at the election board’s next public meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, in the conference room on the first floor of the Dubois County Courthouse Annex, 602 Main St., Jasper. Board members can consider adoption of the plan at this meeting. The plan must pass unanimously for it to be implemented.
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