Election board may consider new early voting site for 2024

Clockwise from left, Debbie Lukas and Jerry Simo assist Alfred Hill and Betty Hill as they check in to vote during at Nexus Park in Columbus on April 5. While NexusPark will host voting in this year’s election, it’s uncertain whether the site will serve as a voting venue in 2024.

Republic file photo

NexusPark and its predecessor, the former FairOaks Mall, has been a popular location for early voting and an Election Day voting center, but it’s unclear whether that will continue after this year.

The publicly funded joint development between the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Health remains under construction. Portions of the multipurpose space at 2288 25th St. will be completed in phases beginning in the next several months.

Meantime, the Bartholomew County Election Board on Thursday voted to allow County Clerk Shari Lentz authority to begin looking at alternatives to NexusPark as a voting location for the 2024 election.

While it’s early and no decisions have yet been made, Lentz noted that she will begin the work of planning voting centers for 2024 — a presidential election year — sometime after Thanksgiving of this year. She said she wanted to let the board know that NexusPark may not be available as a voting location.

“With NexusPark being in limbo, I just was kind of wanting you to give me the authority to go ahead and investigate some other options,” Lentz told fellow board election board members James Holland and Mark Kevitt, who agreed.

“It doesn’t sound like it may be available,” she said of NexusPark.

Republican mayoral candidate and current Columbus Director of Administration and Community Development Mary Ferdon said that because construction will be ongoing and there still may be some uncertainty about tenants for NexusPark, she met with Lentz and said the she advised as a precaution that the city couldn’t commit to hosting voting next year with the space and amenities the county requires of voting centers.

“We weren’t kicking them out, but we didn’t want to leave them hanging,” Ferdon said. “We didn’t want to call them in March next year and say, ‘Sorry,’” Ferdon said.

She said the city has been proud to offer NexusPark as a voting site the past three years. “Our hope is in the future it may work,” she added.

Meanwhile, NexusPark will host early voting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays from Oct. 16 to Nov. 6, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Nov. 4. NexusPark will also be an Election Day voting center for the municipal ballot from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 7.

Lentz also told the election board the county may look to add an additional site to the 13 voting centers that were available during the 2022 election.