Police plan checks on vote centers

Extra police patrols will be placed near vote centers today in Bartholomew County as a record turnout is expected.

Columbus police officers will add patrols in city neighborhoods where a vote center is located, Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman said.

Columbus officers are assigned an area of the city to cover and as part of today’s assignments will be asked to spend a little more time around voting centers. For example, officers who need to stop and do paperwork or even just stretch their legs outside the patrol car can do that by stopping by a vote center, he said.

“We’ve not received any threats of any sort, but emotions have been running high,” Harris said of today’s election. “We don’t anticipate it will be any different than any other past election.”

Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Chris Lane said the sheriff’s department has a similar plan, asking deputies to be visible around vote centers.

“Hopefully, there won’t be any issues,” Lane said.

Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps said the county isn’t expecting any security issues for the election, but wants to have a plan in place in case there is any sort of disturbance.

At times, an occasional voter may object to polling place rules that prohibit people from wearing campaign-related material in voting centers on election day. People cannot wear hats, shirts or buttons promoting a candidate when they go in to cast ballots, which can surprise some voters who are asked to turn their shirt inside out, or take off hats or buttons, Phelps said.

Anyone distributing campaign literature must be at least 50 feet from the voter check-in table, he said.

There are three primary reasons people get turned away from voting, Phelps said.

The largest number of people who get turned away are residents who live in Bartholomew County during warm-weather months but have their official residence and driver’s license in a southern state such as Florida, Arizona or Texas. State law requires that Indiana voters provide an Indiana driver’s license, Indiana photo ID card, U.S. passport, military ID or a state university-issued photo ID. Out-of-state licenses cannot be accepted.

College students who have registered to vote where they attend classes outside of Columbus are being told they must vote there.

The third-highest reason for being turned away is individuals who registered in another county years ago and never updated their registration for Bartholomew County. Those voters need to go back to where they originally registered if they want to vote in this election.

They are also the reasons some would-be voters get upset if they are turned away, Phelps said.

“We have a lot of new voters and some don’t know these rules before they arrive,” he said. “It’s been a divisive campaign and we, as an election board, want to make sure everyone understands the rules.”

Phelps also reminded local voters that the Bartholomew County voting machines are not connected to the internet. The machines are operated through Microvote, an Indianapolis-based voting machine company that has been the county’s vendor for more than 25 years.

Every machine has a paper trail that provides a confirmation on ballots in case fraud or hacking is alleged, Phelps said.

In Madison County, commissioners are paying a ransom to an unknown group of hackers that have locked county officials out of their computers. But, officials said Friday’s attack did not affect the county’s voting records and ballots because they are housed on a separate system.

Madison County Commissioner John Richwine said the county’s insurance carrier advised the county to pay to regain access. While not revealing the amount, Richwine said it was less that most people would think. No records have been lost, but police, fire and government staff could not access government data since Friday.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.