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Do Vote Centers Really Save Money?

Eight counties used vote centers, instead of precinct voting, in this year’s election. One of the claims for switching over to the vote centers is that it would save counties money on election costs. But does switching to vote centers really save the counties money?

A 2010 study by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute concluded every county in Indiana could save money by switching to vote centers. A vote center is a polling place in which any voter in the county can vote – eliminating the need to go to a specific precinct to vote.

Indiana University Political Science Professor Marjorie Hershey says consolidating precincts into a smaller number of voter centers should save counties money.

“Instead of going to the precincts and having lots and lots of election officials required and lots of lots of ballot boxes in polling places there would only be a few,” she says. “That would save money for county governments.”

One of these counties which used vote centers during the recently-completed presidential election cycle was Johnson County. But Clerk Sue Ann Misiniec says that the savings aren’t apparent for their county so far.

“As I was told by some of the pilot counties that initiated the vote centers here in Indiana, if you go into this primarily for cost savings, you’re going to be very disappointed,” she says.

Misiniec says one reason the county likely hasn’t saved money in the short run is that it needed to purchase machines and electronic polling books to make the transition to vote centers.

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