Howard County election officials have begun to vote in favor of implementing vote centers for the 2014 elections–a move aimed at increased voter turnout.
The county election board and the Howard County Commissioners have voted to move to a vote center model, leaving just approval from the county council in the way of swapping out the current precinct model for one which will see just 10 centers – all of them open to all voters — created throughout the county, with four opening in Kokomo for early voting.
Clerk Kim Wilson says she hopes being able to vote wherever it is convenient will lead to higher turnouts.
“You’ll have more days you can go vote and you don’t have one place to vote,” she says. “You have six to ten places to vote, so I think that is much more of an opportunity.”
County officials say they don’t yet know the exact locations of the centers. Other counties, including Monroe, have seen pushes for vote centers delayed over concerns that placing the polling places could lead to a particular party’s voters being disenfranchised.
Both Wilson and county Commissioner Bill Thompson say it is not a worry they’ve addressed yet. Thompson says he is more interested in participation and saving the county money.
“The money is important, but it’s not near as important as just getting more people to participate,” he says. “Our voter turnouts are kind of low throughout the nation. At least here in Howard County I know they’re a lot lower than I’d like to see them so hopefully it will help.”
Wilson says the county will find savings because it won’t have to replace machines as often and less cash can be spent on paying poll workers. She estimates about a 100-thousand dollar savings per election cycle and that the current machines used by the county have to be replaced annually, but these centers will be more efficient and long-lasting.
The money for these centers will come from the county’s Cumulative Capital Fund and these new centers can save the county up to $100,000 per election year. This money saved was normally spent on poll workers, meals and annual machine replacement.
Thompson says the vote was just to show the commissioners support for the centers and no concrete plans have been made for the development.