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BARTHOLOMEW County election officials are taking care in approaching a decision on whether to adopt a new form of casting ballots.
The cautious approach is certainly commendable because the change under consideration will end the decades-long tradition of precinct balloting and will cost a great deal of money to implement. Under consideration is a plan to offer those eligible the opportunity to choose from a much smaller number of strategically located vote centers.
In the 2012 election, for instance, Bartholomew County maintained 66 precincts. The consolidation of a handful of those precincts narrowed the list of actual voting places to 57.
Under the vote center concept, there would be up to seven vote centers at locations around the county.
The inefficiency of the current system was highlighted in the most recent presidential election during which some voters had to stand in lines for up to two hours at some precincts because of interest in the election.
Paying for the staffing required at even the reduced number of 57 voting places is a substantial cost.
Each voting place requires five officers, who are paid between $171 and $201, an amount that includes their day at the polls, a two-hour meeting on the weekend before the election and setting up the machines on the night prior to the
The total estimated cost for the general election of 2012 in Bartholomew County was $88,792.
While the idea of scaling back from 57 to seven locations would seem to represent a tremendous cost savings to the county, the more likely reality is that the upfront money needed to purchase new equipment would offset any savings for several years.
The bottom line on voting centers is that based on the testimony from counties that have already adopted the practice, voting has become a pleasant and relatively trouble-free experience.
Officials from Wayne and Johnson counties who adopted centers in 2007 and 2012 recently told a meeting of local voting officials that reaction has been extremely positive.
Underlining that positive reaction, however, is the need for local officials to exercise great care in establishing the new system, especially in finding sites that offer a convenience to all voters.
The Johnson County official who spoke to the local group reported that the only complaints registered about last year’s election were in regard to accessibility at a church designated as a voting center.
Those positive reactions are ample justification for local officials to continue moving forward on adoption of the voting center concept.
Happy voters are usually frequent voters.
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