St. Joseph County officials considering proposal to create vote centers
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- The way voters in St. Joseph County cast their ballot after Tuesday’s election could change.
The St. Joseph County Election Board is asking county commissioners and county council to approve a request to designate St. Joseph County as a vote center county.
It’s a polling place where any eligible voter in the county can go to vote.
Indiana enacted two laws in 2011 making vote centers an option for any county in the Hoosier state. Thirty-eight counties currently use them.
“It’s a difficult process the way it is now,” said Republican Election Board member Murray Winn.
Right now, voters must vote at an assigned precinct that’s determined by their address.
“We always get voters who come in at the wrong location,” said Winn. “They don’t have time to get to their location and they have to file a provisional ballot.”
Winn says this model gives more flexibility to voters.
“All that will go away,” said Winn. “No matter where you are, where you stop at, if you are a registered voter in St. Joe County, you can vote at any polling location.”
Under the proposal, now polling locations would close next year, but Winn says after analyzing 2020 voter turnout data and feedback, the election board could shut down some precints, which could save money. However, Winn stresses increasing voter turnout is the board’s goal with the proposal.
“It should be easier for voters to vote,” said Winn.
The election board proposed the idea a few years ago, but Winn says it failed because it would have immediately eliminated some locations which caused concern among some voters about turnout.
Winn adds the county’s voting machines weren’t well-equipped to handle vote centers.
“It’s happening all over and hopefully we’ll be able to get there as well,” said Winn. “Initally, people may not approve of it totally, but I think they’re going to like it once they see how it works.”
Winn says it will be tight, but the board hopes to have the plan finalized by the May 2020 primary. He says that in addition to the approval from county commissioners and the county council, the plan must be submitted to the state election division, go through a 30-day public comment period, and receive unanimous approval from the election board.