ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Voting centers have been a point of discussion for the Allen County Election Board for quite some time, but as the time for 2013 budget hearings approaches, members are cautiously weighing their options.
At a board meeting on Wednesday, members reflected on a voting center study conducted by a steering committee two years ago. Beth Dlug, the board's director, says the recommendations can, in large part, still serve as a guiding tool in deciding how to best reduce the capacity demands on the county's voting machines.
The study recommended that the board move slowly and implement early satellite voting first. It also stated that voting centers might be the right model, but further research was needed.
Since that time, Dlug says the county has become more efficient during elections and has already reduced costs. As a result, the possible savings from implementing voting centers has decreased.
In addition, says Dlug, research into voting machines revealed that our current machines would have significant problems handling the increased amount of data storage voting centers require. As a result, tabulation times and programming times would increase.
New voting machines would cost between $2.5 million and $3.1 million. However, Dlug says the county just purchased new machines in 2006. She says machines typically last about ten years before they need to be replaced. She suggested implementing voting centers in phases, with new machines being purchased once steps have been taken to reduce the number of machines that will eventually need to be replaced.
With voting centers, registered voters can vote at whichever polling location they would like, increasing convenience. Electronic Polling Books (EPB) would also be used to keep track of who votes, but each voter would also need to provide a physical signature. Dlug says EPB requires costly software and maintenance.
"We are not going to be able to tell County Council that we are going to be able to give them the savings that we originally anticipated," says Dlug.
Given that, the board is also weighing two other options. One would create 129 Super Precincts. Currently, there are 327 precincts. Consolidating, however, would be contingent on state approval. With fewer machines needed, and Dlug says if uncontested precinct committeeman and delegate races were removed from the ballot, the county's current machines could likely handle the capacity demands placed on them.
Another option includes reorganizing and reducing the number of polling locations from 129 to 100. With the money being saved, Dlug says the board could invest more money in early voting at more locations.
"With the money that we save, then we could offer early satellite voting for several days before the election, and give people more options and convenience for voting," says Dlug.
Members of the Allen County Election Board will meet again on July 10th to discuss the matter further.
What are your thoughts CLICK HERE to leave us a "Your2Cents” comment.
© Copyright 2013 A Granite Broadcasting Station. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.