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Board looks to grow early-voting sites

Allen County voters might have more opportunities to vote earlier at more locations if the fiscal plan to expand early satellite voting is approved.

Members of the Allen County Election Board on Monday brainstormed ways to increase voter turnout and run elections more efficiently.

The expansion would begin next year with city elections, which are paid for by the city, Director of Elections Beth Dlug said.

The plan would require $25,000 to pay people to work four extra locations for eight hours a day, six days for the general election and three days for the primary.

The board will also investigate the possibility of leasing electronic poll books. The electronic tablets are capable of scanning ID cards and instantly downloading voter and precinct information.

The poll books require little training compared with laptop computers, Dlug said. They cost about $1,600 to $1,800 to buy, she said, and Allen County would need 12 for the four extra satellite locations. Leasing is expected to be less expensive than buying them.

The county begins the budgeting process for 2015 next month.

“I will figure the costs into our budget, and hopefully we will get the money,” Dlug said.

At this time, the board is not planning to establish voting centers. A vote center is a polling location where any eligible voters in the county can cast their ballots instead of being assigned to one specific location.

All vote centers have an interconnected electronic poll book that is instantaneously updated when a vote is cast. The voting machines themselves remain the same.

“It would not save the county any money,” Dlug said.

Polling sites have been consolidated, particularly in the last year, which saved the county about $200,000, she said.

“We have already been doing what others are being advised to do in going to vote centers,” Dlug said.

In other business, board members also agreed to talk to state legislators about obtaining an exception to Indiana’s Do-Not-Call laws.

“We would like to use an automated system to call the county’s 180,000 households of registered voters and advise them of their polling locations prior to elections,” Dlug said.

The law forbids making the calls without a pre-existing personal or business relationship.

Board members also agreed to analyze voter flow during the next election, pursue changes to electronic poll book legislation and support a school in-service day on election days so that more polling sites could be moved to schools.

Board members are backing legislative changes that would do away with a mandate that requires electronic poll books to be connected to a central server for precinct-based voting.

Another change would allow counties to buy electronic poll books for early voting only or for selected voting locations instead of complete county adoption.

“Right now, it’s all or nothing,” Dlug said.

“If we do it at early voting, we have to do it on election days, as well.”