Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Demise of Early Voting in Marion County; The Need to Have Voting Centers Replace Old Precinct Voting Locations

Yesterday the Marion County Election Board failed to renew very popular early voting locations. The Republican on the Election Board, Patrick Dietrick, voted against the proposal. Unlike other matters that come before the Board, this proposal required unanimity from the bipartisan Board:

The Star's Francesca Jarosz reports:

The board's lone Republican, Patrick Dietrick, said his vote against allowing any satellite sites wasn't politically motivated.

Democratic members of the board, Marion County Clerk Beth White and Mark Sullivan, both lawyers, voted for opening satellite sites on the city's Eastside and in Pike Township, districts that are heavily Democratic, and Beech Grove, which is heavily Republican.

Dietrick, a lawyer, said he supports the concept of satellite voting but had concerns over sloppiness in the process of delivering ballots from those locations during the
2008 election.

Dietrick said before spending roughly $60,000 per satellite site, there should be an organized method for moving the ballots from the sites to the City-County Building, then back to the precincts to be counted.

Read here for the rest of the article.

I'm not certain what the specific concerns were cited by Dietrick. The early voting ballots were delivered along with the absentee ballots to the precinct for counting. I agree there needs to be a better way to process those ballots. In November of 2008, we were overwhelmed in my precinct by the huge number of early voting ballots we received.

But I didn't see any security problems associated with the process. Yes it needs tweaking, but to discontinue the popular program is not only is bad for voters, for Marion County Republicans it could turn into a PR disaster. Clever Democrats (yes there are some out there) will turn this into a "voter suppression" effort. See Indianapolis Times for the start of the PR war.

I am a little concerned that early voting gets away from the importance of the concept of Election Day as the day when voters come together and participate in the democratic process. More so than "early voting" as convenience, I am a strong advocate for scrapping the neighborhood precinct voting system which dates from the horse and buggy days, and going to voting centers set up around the county to process voters on Election Day. Instead of having some 400 or so voting locations, which are incredibly labor-intensive to staff, you have larger voting locations set up all around the county. Voters can choose on Election Day to go to any voting center in the county to cast a ballot.

When I ran for Clerk in 2002, I proposed the move to toward voting centers. I couldn't get anyone to understood the concept. A few years later, at the request of Secretary of State Todd Rokita, the Indiana General Assembly adopted a pilot voting center project for a couple counties, including Wayne. It proved enormously popular and greatly reduced the cost of putting on elections. Voting centers are the wave of the future and the direction we in Marion County should be moving in.


Nicolas Martin said...

Early voting should be abolished. If the party-line voters can't be bothered to appear on election day then that's their problem. If anything, late voting is better than early voting. Keep voting centers open for a week after "election day."

Downtown Indy said...

I too an against the idea of early votig centers. Voting should be a one day affair as it eliminates the opportunity to lose or tamper with votes as they sit around for days or weeks.

I agree with the other comment, 'voting day' should stand as a special day - it's that important. There are absentee ballots for anyone who can't schedule around voting on the designated day.

We know exactly when voting day is, it's not a surprise conflict that pops up at the last minute. And I believe it's required by law that we be allowed time to leave work to vote, if necessary.

I suspect that news stories or friends that speculate who's winning or losing also sway the feebleminded who lazily vote 'like everyone else did.'

varangianguard said...

IIRC, voting center "early" votes are absentee ballots. Just with the voter being ID'd.

Difficult for me to vote on election day, as I leave my house at 3:30 AM and don't return until barely before 6 PM. Not enough time to run over to the precinct.

Downtown Indy said...

Can I assume you've never, ever left work an hour early for any reason?