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Vote centers should be county’s next move

My Opinion
Ross Schulz, Staff Writer

Be sure to pay attention to the mailing sent from the Harrison County Circuit Court Clerk’s office regarding polling locations. Chances are, it’ll include a change from previous elections.
The Harrison County Election Board significantly reduced the number of voting locations this year, a move that raised a few eyebrows.
Some folks who were accustomed to their location that was dropped didn’t want to travel the extra few miles that came with the new sites. But voters should get used to the consolidation because small voting locales in nearly every voting precinct may be a thing of the past.
Other counties throughout the state, including neighboring Floyd, are moving to the vote-center concept, and it is a viable option Harrison County officials should consider.
A vote center is a polling place where any eligible voter in the county may go to vote. So anyone, from any precinct, can vote at any of the designated areas. The vote-center model gives voters flexibility on election day because they are not obligated to vote at a specific polling location. Voters can stop by any vote center that is near them or on the way to another destination. The vote centers are connected through a secure Internet connection and, as ballots are cast, an electronic poll book is instantaneously updated so that no one may vote more than once.
While it may be a spell before Harrison County moves to the vote-center concept, the trend is moving to more centralized voting to not only save the county money, but also to enhance convenience for voters, who could vote at any of the votecenter locations. No longer will there be confusion as to who votes where and which precinct goes to what side of a building where more than one precinct is assigned.
Some voters in Harrison County have voted at three different polling locations in the past three election years.
From 2007 to 2010, the Indiana Secretary of State’s office ran the Vote Center Pilot Program where three counties ‘ Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass ‘ used the vote-center model to decide if it would be a good option for other counties.
In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 32 and House Enrolled Act 1242 and the governor signed both pieces of legislation, making vote centers an option for any county.
For now, polling locations have been reduced to 15 throughout the county, a significantly smaller figure than previous elections. Most are located at easily accessible locations such as school buildings.
Many of these locations would work well as vote centers, if Harrison County elects to move in that direction.
Thirty percent of Indiana’s 92 counties have already elected to do so.
Floyd County will have 10 vote centers (down from 30 under the previous voting method), so it would be reasonable to expect a county of Harrison’s size to have about 15, which is the current figure of polling places.
With so many options to vote (the absentee voting board will even go to the residence of a home-bound voter), both absentee or live on election day, there’s no reason not to move to the vote-center concept to help cut down on the cost of an election and streamline the process.