Without an election to plan this year, the Jackson County Election Board recently decided to take a look at establishing vote centers.
A vote center is a polling place where any eligible voter in the county can go to vote on Election Day, as opposed to voting at a designated polling place. In recent years, the county election board has started moving toward vote centers by combining precinct polling sites, especially in Seymour.
During the 2020 presidential election Nov. 3, voters from the 30 precincts cast ballots at 20 polling locations.
The three Crothersville-Vernon Township precincts voted at First Baptist Church in that town; three of the five Brownstown precincts voted at the courthouse; and the 11 Seymour precincts voted at six sites — Calvary Baptist Church, The Point Family Center, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Zion Lutheran Church, the former Jackson Superior Court I building and Seymour Christian Church.
Currently, 46 of Indiana’s 92 counties have vote centers. Two counties that border Jackson, Lawrence and Bartholomew, have adopted the use of vote centers.
The election board, which includes Republican Melissa Acton, Democrat Julie Rohlfing and county Clerk Melissa Hayes, a Republican, discussed the idea of bringing vote centers to the county during a recent meeting.
To move to vote centers in the county, the election board must draft a detailed plan to address infrastructure and technology, electronic poll books, training and procedures of poll workers, early voting, preparing voters and cost of vote centers.
The board currently is looking over plans that other counties have drafted to get an idea as to how they might write one of their own.
They also are looking at a map showing the population distribution of Jackson County to decide where to put vote centers to give voters the best access to them.
Hayes said ideally, there would be vote centers in Crothersville, Medora, Freetown, Brownstown and two in Seymour, but those locations aren’t official, as the election board is still deciding where they could go.
Vote centers can save the costs of holding elections by cutting down on the number of poll workers and voting machines needed, Hayes said. It also reduces expenses by eliminating the need for an election courier to deliver election results.
Since vote centers would be a new election process, Hayes said the election board also is looking into getting voters educated on how they could work if implemented.
In the past, Hayes has said vote centers would be more convenient for voters, but finding locations large enough to accommodate a vote center would be a disadvantage.
She also has said the process of voting at a vote center would resemble early voting. During the presidential election, 53% of registered voters in Jackson County voted before Election Day.
According to in.gov, vote centers are connected through secure internet connections, and as ballots are cast, an electronic poll book is instantaneously updated.
Election board meetings are open to the public and press. The next meeting is at 5:30 p.m. April 8.