Bartholomew County election officials are bracing for what could be a record turnout for the Nov. 8 general election, but they are optimistic there will be few, if any, voters stuck in long lines.
Under a proposal unanimously approved by the Bartholomew County Commissioners, 10 additional poll pads will be leased for a year at a cost of $5,000.
This will enable 13 of the 18 voting centers in the county to have three check-in stations, Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said.
“We felt like this was the last piece to be sure we have everything under control for the November election,” Phelps said.
When three check-in stations were established during the May 3 primary at each of the three most popular voting centers — Grace Lutheran Church, Donner Center and St. John’s Masonic Lodge, poll workers estimated it saved many voters from waiting 30 to 45 minutes in line, Phelps said.
“We did that as an experiment, but it was so successful,” county elections supervisor Shari Lentz said.
During and after the primary, no complaints were received about long waits, Phelps said.
Since voting centers require far fewer volunteers than the former precinct voting system, Lentz said both the Republican and Democratic parties had no trouble recruiting a sufficient number of poll workers.
The only voting centers that will continue to have just two check-in stations will be the five locations with the lowest turnout last spring, Phelps told the commissioners.
Phelps identified those five as the Deaver Road REMC building, Southwest Fire Department, Shiloh Baptist Church, Clifford Fire Department and White Creek Lutheran Church.
“Even if one of those five locations have a much higher turnout than anticipated, we can always move a poll pad and a poll worker to it,” Phelps said. “That’s one of the great things about vote centers.”
Much of the anticipated confusion regarding vote centers was alleviated April 4 when commissioners gave permission to send mailings to 23,000 Bartholomew County residents, Phelps said.
Those mailings — which outlined dates, hours, locations and other details regarding early voting and vote centers — received substantial praise from the public, he said.
Another step that was instrumental in reducing lines was cross-training poll workers, so they could serve either at the check-in station or by assisting individual voters in casting ballots, Lentz said.
“I really think both made the primary election go very smooth,” Phelps said.
Although a few townships did not have vote centers last May, only a few complaints were lodged about that, Lentz said.
Even those who raised objections eventually understood their township did not have a facility that met all legal standards regarding handicap access, a paved parking lot and adequate internet access, she said.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, local residents should not anticipate any changes in voting center locations, commissioner Carl Lienhoop said.
“We don’t like changing voting sites between the primary and the general election in order to avoid confusion,” he said.
But once this year’s general election is over, members of the Bartholomew County Election Board will meet to make necessary adjustments, commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said.
Those discussions will be used to determine the adequate number of voting centers and poll workers that will be required in the future, he said.
Here are the locations of the 2016 voting centers in Bartholomew County, with numbers representing turnout during the May 3 primary.
Grace Lutheran Church: 1,825
Donner Center: 1,801
St. John’s Masonic Lodge: 1,608
German Township Fire Station: 1,135
Flintwood Wesleyan Church: 1,099
Hope Moravian Church: 961
Terrace Lake Church: 873
The Commons: 859
Main Source Bank on W. Jonathan Moore Pike: 754
Healing Waters Church: 692
Faith Lutheran Church: 666
East Columbus (Columbus Township) Fire Station: 664
Elizabethtown Fire Station: 620
REMC Building on Deaver Road: 615
Southwest Fire Station: 598
Shiloh Baptist Church: 553
Clifford Fire Station: 465
White Creek Lutheran Church: 330