Voting centers

The DeKalb County Election Board is deciding if it should move to a voting center model where voters could cast ballots in various geographical spots, rather than the current precinct system.

AUBURN — The DeKalb County Election Board is seeking input from DeKalb County voters on vote centers.

In June, the DeKalb County Council passed a resolution approving DeKalb County as a vote center county. The vote center model would allow voters to cast their ballots at any vote center location throughout the county.A bipartisan committee has been formed to study the matter.

The three-member county Election Board, consisting of DeKalb County Clerk Holly Albright and representatives of the Republican and Democratic parties, will make the final decision on whether to move to vote centers. The election board’s decision must be unanimous.

Currently, on Election Day in DeKalb County, voters can cast their ballots at their assigned precincts. There are 39 precincts in DeKalb County, housed at 18 polling sites.

Proponents of vote centers say they give voters a choice and the opportunity to vote at their convenience. Opponents say anyone who has to travel further to his or her polling place is less likely to vote.

“Anyone who is a registered voter can go anywhere and vote. It eliminates geographical constraints,” Albright said of vote centers.

The vote center study committee is looking at 10 vote centers throughout the county, Albright said. They include Hamilton Life Center; Ashley Community Center; the Corunna Fire Station; New Hope Christian Center in Waterloo; the Butler American Legion post; Coburn Corners Church of Christ in St. Joe; Community Heritage Church south of Auburn; and the JAM Center in Garrett. All the locations are current polling sites.

In Auburn, Albright said, the committee is looking at reducing the number of polling places from five to two. The rotunda of the DeKalb County Courthouse no longer will be used for voting on Election Day. A new security system requires the public to enter the courthouse through a secure entrance staffed by DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department officers. Indiana law states a uniformed officer may not be within 50 feet of a polling site, Albright explained.

DeKalb County government offices now will remain open for business on Election Day, Albright said.

Albright said the First United Methodist Church in Auburn is being proposed as a vote center. The committee is looking for an additional vote center in Auburn, she added.

A survey has been developed to gather opinions and comments from the public on vote centers. Local organizations are sharing the survey on social media, and paper copies are being distributed in city and town offices throughout the county, as well as at Albright’s office, Albright said. The survey also is available online at co.dekalb.in.us.

From the time the survey was released July 31 through midday Aug. 1, Albright had received 216 responses, she said.

As to the question, “Are you in favor of vote centers,” 62% had given positive feedback, Albright said. Others said they needed more information, and 20% were undecided, she added.

The survey will remain open through the end of August, and the committee then will use the results to write a vote center plan, which will be open for public comment. The Election Board will conduct two public hearings on the plan before voting on it.

Albright said she hopes to have a vote center model in place for the 2020 elections.

Albright noted voters also have other options when casting their ballots, through early voting, absentee voting by mail, or through the traveling board for voters who are confined to their homes.

“There really are options to vote,” Albright said. “I think vote centers make it more convenient.”

Albright noted that even if the vote center model is not implemented, some of DeKalb County’s current polling sites are not compliant with the American with Disabilities Act, and alternative locations will need to be found.

“They’re hard to find, especially in rural areas,” she added.

Albright invited anyone with questions about vote centers to contact her office at 260-925-9787.

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