FORT WAYNE – Many Allen County residents should prepare to vote at new locations in 2014 as the election board plans to implement voting centers.
The three-member board unanimously agreed Tuesday to reorganize and consolidate voting locations and begin the process of early satellite voting in 2014.
Although board members Andrew Boxberger, a Democrat, and Zachary Klutz, a Republican, both agreed that voting centers are the future, the technology to install those centers is not yet capable of handling an area the size of Allen County, they said.
Vanderburgh County, in the states southwest corner, is the largest Indiana county that has converted to voting centers, and with 137,000 registered voters is about half the size of Allen County, Klutz said.
The centers would replace traditional precincts and allow residents to choose their voting locations. Using electronic poll books, individualized ballots could be produced at any vote center.
The technology is just not yet at the point where it is user-friendly for larger counties, Klutz said.
The costs associated with implementing the centers is also prohibitive right now, Boxberger said.
The county has 326 precincts, and consolidation could reduce the number of polling locations from 129 to 100 within those precincts, said Beth Dlug, the boards director.
Some people are driving past a voting location in their own neighborhoods and having to travel to one farther away, she said.
Early satellite voting would be offered at four locations, and the county already has the hardware in place to proceed with the plan, Dlug said.
While he was in favor of the changes, Boxberger said its important that voters are notified well in advance of both the primary and general elections.
The election board will make final decisions after receiving a report from Dlug on her recommendations for satellite voting locations, dates and times.
The board must submit expected capital expenses for the 2014 election next week when county hearings for the 2013 budgets begin. Some election contracts have to be in place six months to a year in advance, Dlug said.