According to in.gov, the official website of the State of Indiana, a vote center is a polling place where any eligible voter in the county may go to vote.
As of this year, 46 of Indiana’s 92 counties have vote centers.
This past election season saw not only record early voting turnout in the nation but also in Jackson County.
Out of the 19,422 total ballots cast in 2020 in Jackson County, 52% were cast by early voting, whether that was by in-person absentee voting, mail-in ballots, travel board or military ballots received.
In a county with vote centers on Election Day, voters would experience a similar process to early voting.
For early voting this year in Jackson County, two locations were set up: One at the former Superior Court I building in Seymour and the other at the Jackson County Judicial Center in Brownstown.
Up until noon on the day before Election Day, registered voters in Jackson County are able to vote on an absentee ballot in-person at these locations.
If a registered Jackson County voter doesn’t vote early, then they have to find out where they have to vote based on more than 20 polling locations among 30 precincts in the county.
Vote centers would reduce the number of polling locations in Jackson County by instead having vote centers that represent multiple precincts and process polling information instantly.
IN.gov’s page says vote centers are connected through secure internet connections, and as ballots are cast, an electronic poll book is instantaneously updated.
When asked what difference in the election process Jackson County would see if vote centers were used in an election, county Clerk Melissa Hayes said, “Voters would no longer have to vote at their precinct voting location. They could vote (at) any vote center location. It would resemble the process of early voting.”
Hayes said there are advantages to vote centers.
“It would cut down on election costs by having less polling locations,” she said. “It would also be more convenient for voters. They could vote at any vote center location.”
Hayes said a disadvantage to implementing vote centers is it would be a change for voters and how they are used to voting.
Finding locations large enough to accommodate a vote center is another disadvantage, Hayes said.
When asked how vote centers can be implemented in Jackson County, Hayes said, “The election board must produce a plan for implementing vote centers, seek public comment and file (with) the Indiana Election Division.”
According to in.gov, it’s recommended to start a study committee that evaluates if vote centers would be appropriate for a county. A study committee would study topics like infrastructure and technology, electronic poll books, training and procedures of poll workers, early voting, preparing voters and cost of vote centers.
Before seeking public comment, a detailed plan for vote centers must be drafted. This plan must be open for public comment for at least 30 days after it has been drafted.
Once a vote center plan has been finalized, it has to be unanimously approved by the county’s election board.
After it has been passed, the plan has to be filed with the Indiana Election Division.