Community leaders organize public forum on polling centers

MUNCIE, Ind. –Voters in Delaware County attended a public forum at Southside Middle School on Thursday to share their thoughts on voting centers.

Currently, Delaware County elections are run on the basis of electoral districts, where voters can only vote in one location based on their address. If Delaware County moved to polling centers, there would be fewer polling places in the county, but voters could vote at any polling station in the county.

Andrew Popp is a political candidate in District Five of Delaware County. He said he hoped the polling centers could make voting more accessible and encourage higher voter turnout.

“Voting is important, not as a candidate but as an American citizen. It is the key to our republic, ”said Popp. “The more people you have voting in a region, it gives you a better representation of what the region thinks. ”

Indiana is one of 18 states that allow voting centers in elections. More than half of counties in Indiana already use voting centers.

Mike White is a former chairman of the Delaware County Electoral Board and is part of the group that is now pushing for a move to polling centers. But he said it was not the first time local leaders have tried to make the change.

“It’s something I’ve been trying to accomplish for a very long time,” White said. “The people who have the advantage are the voters. “

White and five other local leaders formed a bipartisan study committee to research polling centers in Indiana and work with the public to develop a plan for how they could be implemented in Delaware County. The group is led by Lesia Meer and Jessica Whitehead. Meer and Whitehead address the topic as part of their wrap-up project for a Ball State University certification course in Election Technology.

For Meer and Whitehead, Thursday’s forum was the first step towards voting centers in Delaware County. They said the views of the public are critical in determining what voters need to create a system that works for them.

Charles Taylor is a Delaware County resident who attended the forum. He said he hopes the group will consider working with MITS to make sure polling centers are accessible to all.

“I think the key will be where the locations of the voting centers are,” Taylor said. “To make sure it doesn’t reduce accessibility to voting for anyone.” ”

Once the study group has developed a plan with public input, the county must proceed in four steps to change the polling centers. First, the electoral council would determine the location of the polling centers and their number. Current research from the study committee suggests there may be as many as 26 polling centers.

Once the electoral council chooses the locations, it would hold a public hearing to present the plan to the community. Then the Council would vote on the plan. To approve the move to voting centers, all three board members are expected to vote in favor of the plan.

If the plan passes the electoral board, it would go on to Delaware County commissioners for approval.

Sherry Riggin is a county commissioner and also sits on the polling center study committee. She said a move to polling centers would improve voting in Delaware County.

“It’s so easy because you can stop somewhere on your way to work, come in, register, show your ID, vote and you’ll be out,” Riggins said. “We just hope people will give us a yes.”

Meer and Whitehead said the group wanted to hear from as many voters as possible. Delaware County residents can complete an online polling center survey.

The study committee also plans to hold a second public forum on November 16 at Muncie Central High School starting at 6:00 p.m.


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