Thursday, May 14, 2009

Governor Daniels Vetoes Vote Center Bill; Response of Secretary of State Todd Rokita

Regular readers of this blog will note that I have long been a supporter of vote centers (which I prefer calling "voting centers.") When I ran for Marion County Clerk in 2002, I pushed for the idea of instead of continuing with the precinct based voting systems we've had since the horse and buggy days, we instead move toward a vote center type system. In that year, I had a boatload of trouble explaining how such a system would work. Now, however, we've had several very positive experiences with vote centers in various counties throughout the state.

To quickly summarize, the idea of a vote center is that on Election Day instead of being required to vote in only one particular precinct in the county, you can walk into any voting center and cast a ballot. Voting centers, in conjunction with the elimination of the old precinct voting system, results in a drastic reduction in the cost and amount of labor required to put on an election. The voting centers are also a lot more convenient to the voters, and encourages turnout.

This year, the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 209 which makes a number of electoral reform, including expanding voting centers. Governor Daniels vetoed the bill stating:
“While this bill contains provisions that would make the act of voting more convenient, it does not contain sufficient safeguards against fraud and abuse and removes long-standing bipartisan checks and balances in the conduct of elections."
Although this veto message doesn't detail exactly what in SB 209 the Governor found objectionable, my guess is that his problem was that SB 209 removed the requirement that satellite voting centers only be set up on a unanimous vote of the election board (as was done by Lake County during the last election) and would allow voting centers to also be established by counties on less than a unanimous vote. As far as "fraud," I'm not sure what the Governor is talking about. Actually bipartisan vote centers are going to have less fraud than a precinct based voting system where polling places sometimes are manned without a bipartisan presence that can combat polling place fraud.

Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a supporter of the reforms in SB 209, was quick to respond to Governor Daniels' veto:
“How ironic it is that the one local government reform that actually passes the legislature ends up getting vetoed. Vote Centers is perhaps the only local government reform that so far has been proven unequivocally to save taxpayers money. I would expect, given the serious fiscal condition of the state, that the concept is important enough to find its way into the budget bill so that all 92 counties be given the opportunity to realize the unquestionable taxpayer benefits and savings.”
While Governor Daniels' concerns are legitimate, making vote centers hostage to unanimous vote of election boards is to slow to a crawl this much needed reform and to make it even more of a political football than it already is. County Clerks need the flexibility to be able to establish voting centers to alleviate incredible amount of labor and the expense associated with putting on an election. Anyone who knows Indiana politics, knows that any election reform, no matter how innocent and well-meaning, inevitably ends in a partisan dispute. Requiring a unanimous vote by an election board before a Clerk can establish voting centers is to bring to a halt this much needed reform. (For example, can anyone imagine Marion Conty Republican Chairman Tom John and his counterpart, Democrat Ed Treacy, agreeing on the location of vote centers in Marion County?) Hopefully the General Assembly will override this veto in the special session.

See also:

Voting Centers - A Time That Has Come for Marion County/Indianapolis (10/10/2008)
Kickin' Marion County Clerk Beth White (11/18/2008)


jabberdoodle said...

I agree 100% with you on this one. I first learned of voting centers back when my Dad lived in Oregon where they worked quite well, and have for over a decade. There the system included the option of early voting at the centers and mail-in voting, which extended the time and ways that votes could be cast. This state seems to prefer its fantasy that voter fraud is rampant and must be beaten back.
I'm glad to see Rokita in support of the voting centers, as well.
Do you happen to know how likely a veto override is?

Paul K. Ogden said...


I don't know the odds of a veto override. In Indiana, you only need a simple majority, which is what it took to pass the bill in the first place. I'm just not sure legislative leaders are going to want to take on the governor on the issue.

As far as voter fraud, I totally agree with a voter ID requirement, though I wish it were not as strict as Indiana's is. That "simply sign in" system for voting Indiana was a joke, especially when you have grossly inflated voter registration rolls where probably 25% of the names on the list are of people who have moved or have died.

I think Oregon has gone completely to a mail in system for voting...they don't even vote at the polls anymore. I don't want that. I still like the election day voting...I just think it needs to be made more convenient to people by letting them vote at any location in the county.

Our voter registration rolls are an absolute mess...thanks to the Motor Voter Bill which forbid purging for non-voting. They've made it virtually impossible and extremely expensive to purge names of non-voters. Thus, we're left with terribly bloated voter registration rolls, a recipe for fraud if there ever was one. We now have more people registered to vote in Marion County (105% plus) than are eligible.

Right now they expect you to try to create a statewide voter registration list and catch duplicates that way. But you are almost completely prohibited from using social security numbers. Without SSN's its virtually impossible to have an effective list.

The best way to clean up the voter registration lists is to purge for non-voting - if someone has never voted in any election ins say a 6 year period, they get dropped. The problem is the Democrats start screaming bloody murder. As someone who has worked at the polls, I can tell you if someone has not voted in a six year period, it's because they're dead or have moved, with extremely few exceptions.

Democrats need to be more reasonable when it comes to 1) reasonable voter ID requirements and 2) a reasonable time period for purging people for not voting so we can clean up the voter registration rolls.

Republicans on the other hand need to be more reasonable about making registration and voting easier.

Unknown said...

In fact the voters registration office is preparing to purge non-voters. Check with Terry Burns of that office.

Paul K. Ogden said...


To do a voter registration purge now you have to send out notices twice to the non-voting registered voter and have the notice returned in the mail as undeliverable. You can't just purge people for not voting as used to be the case. Doing this is a very cumbersome, expensive process, which is exactly why Clerk's offices around the state do not want to do it, understandably so.

Unknown said...

Paul, I tell you they are doing it in Marion County.

Paul K. Ogden said...


I didn't say they aren't doing it in Marion County. They're just doing it the very expensive and convulated way I described, which is not very practical.

In fact, by law, they have to purge. In other words, the feds make it very expensive and difficult to purge voters and then penalize you if you don't do it.