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County exec switch set for ballot

Fewer commissioner members, enlarged council ranks

Members of the Allen County Election Board certified a public question Monday that will ask fall election voters whether they are in favor of a single county executive.

The question that will appear on ballots reads: “Shall the county government of Allen County be reorganized to place all executive powers in a single county executive and to place all legislative and fiscal powers in the county council?”

If a majority of voters favor the referendum, Allen County would move to a single county executive system – one county commissioner instead of three – and the County Council would be enlarged and have both legislative and fiscal powers. Currently, the commissioners are the legislative arm of the county, and the council handles fiscal matters.

If the referendum passes, the first Allen County single county executive would be elected in the 2018 general election, and the county commissioners’ board would be abolished Jan. 1, 2019. The council would go from seven members – four districts and three at-large – to nine single-member districts – giving every part of the county a direct elected representative.

In other business, Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, and Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, R-Fort Wayne, both members of the Interim Study Committee on Elections, talked to board members about some suggested amendments to state law regarding the use of electronic poll books.

The electronic tablets are capable of scanning ID cards and instantly downloading voter and precinct information.

Director of Elections Beth Dlug said the way the laws are written now it’s an all-or-nothing venture. Dlug and the board would like to incorporate electronic poll books into the election process, but with a gradual adoption.

Suggested changes included allowing the use of electronic poll books during early voting only and using the paper poll books on election days.

Board members are also backing legislative amendments that would do away with a mandate that requires electronic poll books to be connected to a central server for precinct-based voting and another amendment that would allow counties to buy electronic poll books for early voting only or for selected voting locations instead of complete county adoption.

Amendments to election laws that would allow gradual or partial use of electronic poll books would mitigate poll worker errors and promote fairness in voter queue management, Dlug said.

The Interim Study Committee on Elections will begin meeting in August, and both Cox and GiaQuinta said they would address the issue then.

If the changes are approved, Dlug said electronic tablets would be used in the general city election next year.