St. Joseph County Election Board votes to hire attorney amid election controversy

The St. Joseph County Election Board voted Friday to hire an attorney to defend two of its democratic members.

This follows a controversy surrounding surveillance video, showing County Clerk Rita Glenn going in and out of an absentee ballot storage room alone.

Now, county republicans are suing to stop a resolution that states the clerk has the privilege to do so. They argue members of both parties must always be present any time that room is unlocked.

Members of the public expressed their frustration Friday over the way absentee ballots are handled. Some said they cannot trust their vote in St. Joseph County. Others said the lawsuit is frivolous and a waste of taxpayer money.

“The allegation was that the resolution gave the clerk’s office some power that it shouldn’t have had. We disagree with that. We say that the resolution just mirrors state law and, in fact, it just restates what she can do.”

A lawsuit is fighting a St. Joseph County Election Board resolution, which states the county clerk has the power to act on behalf of the election board.

Republicans are calling this an egregious move to eliminate bi-partisan safeguards for absentee ballots.

This follows a controversy surrounding surveillance video, showing County Clerk Rita Glenn going in and out of an absentee ballot storage room alone.

But Democratic board member, Charles Leone, said the county voting system is set up in a way that enough people are involved to trust the process.

“There’s all kinds of checks and balances in place that are written into state law,” he said. “So, there are really a lot of steps that have to be followed, and we follow them rigorously.”

Leone is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“It is a complex system, and it’s inspectable and it’s viewable at all stages in the process,” Leone said.

He said Rita Glenn was cleaning out the storage room in the surveillance video that surfaced, starting the whole controversy.

The Chairman of the St. Joseph County Republican Party, Tyler Gillean, previously told ABC57 they just want to ensure the voting process is bipartisan, and they want to ensure there is no room for any kind of fraud in the upcoming midterm election.

“We want to get to the bottom of this to make sure that this is an election where we are following the law,” Gillean said, “where we don’t just pick and choose about what rules that need to be followed.”

The St. Joseph County Libertarian’s, however, seeing the whole system as flawed.

“Even since Al Gore versus Bush, there have been controversies on both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican, accusing the other side of stealing the election,” said Timothy Cotton.

Cotton, the chair for the Libertarian party, said they want to see a system where ballots have receipts and can be audited.

"This is why Indiana has one of the lowest approval rates, for lack of better words, of the election process. It's because we can't verify that our votes actually matter."

The lawsuit was originally filed in Marshall County.

But Friday, a judge ruled in favor of a motion to transfer the case to St. Joseph County, where the incident being litigated took place, according to a member of the election board.

Read the resolution passed here, and the lawsuit can be found here.

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