Indiana county eyes vote centers after delays

By The Associated Press

TAYLORSVILLE — Long lines that formed on Election Day have prompted at least one Indiana community to look at changing its voting system.

Some voters at Bartholomew County polling places waited more than two hours to cast ballots Tuesday, and county officials say they are now looking into establishing vote centers.

Seven Indiana counties — Wayne, Tippecanoe, Cass, Vanderburgh, Blackford, Johnson and Switzerland — used vote centers in the general election. The centers allow voters to cast ballots at the location of their choice, regardless of where they live. They also serve as satellite locations for absentee voting.

Supporters say the all-in-one system provides more flexibility for voters.

Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines said she’s interested in exploring the idea and replacing the county’s 66 small precincts with fewer polling sites but adding more machines at those centers.

Larry Kleinhenz, president of the Bartholomew County Board of Commissioners, is also interested.

“They’ll make it easier to run the election, and we hope it will be more of a convenience for voters,” he told The Republic in Columbus.

Long lines were a headache in several Indiana communities Tuesday. In Hamilton County, voters at one Fishers precinct waited up to three hours to cast ballots. Delays of two hours were reported at other Indianapolis-area sites.

In Bartholomew County, some voters at the Taylorsville Volunteer Fire Department who were in line by 6 p.m. didn’t cast ballots until 8:20 p.m.

The delays occurred despite an Election Day turnout that was the county’s lowest for a presidential election in more than three decades.

Hines and Kleinhenz said a lengthy seven-page ballot and a property tax referendum on early childhood education funding contributed to long waits at Taylorsville and other precincts. But voters weren’t happy.

“Having to stand in line that long doesn’t exactly encourage democracy, and it makes democracy available only to those who have two hours to spare,” said Arleen Keele, who spent more than two hours waiting to vote at the county fairgrounds.

Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said she likes the vote centers but notes that there are startup costs counties must consider before going down that path.

Johnson County spent $128,000 to buy 60 electronic poll books that link with state voter registration files, printers, scanners and support services so it could open its 22 vote centers for the primary and general elections this year.

“I am a firm believer in the process,” Misiniec said. “We hear lots of positives about it. People have flexibility.”

Kleinhenz estimates Bartholomew County would need five to seven vote centers, strategically spaced around the county.

He said he hopes the county can make the switch sooner rather than later.

“I personally would like to see us do it at the next midterm elections (in 2014),” he said.

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