by Amie Sites
— Howard County Clerk Kim Wilson spent time in Cass County Thursday to learn details about vote centers, a method advocates say can save costs and add convenience for voters.
Cass County Clerk Beth Liming said Wilson contacted her about a month ago to schedule a visit to the county’s vote centers.
Wilson visited the vote centers on the first day of early voting, signaling the first day vote centers were open. Wilson said it was a busy time for both her and Liming, but election season was the only time she could see them.
Cj Gilsinger, Cass County’s information technology manager, went with Liming to show visitors from Howard County the vote centers.
“It’s one thing to talk about voting centers and another to see them,” Liming said. “I would say Howard County is close to implementing them.”
Wilson said they toured the Logansport Mall, Cass County Senior Center, Cass County 4-H Fairgrounds and the garage at the courthouse.
“Beth is a great clerk and has always been helpful,” Wilson said. “I think it helped everyone from our county realize how it works.”
Wilson brought voter registration department heads Beth Rakestraw and Carol Shallenberger, election board member Mark Bourff and information systems director Terry Tribby.
Howard County uses paper ballots, Wilson said. She said there are 67,000 registered voters in Howard County and by the end of absentee voting they will probably have 6,000 votes.
Since lawmakers made vote centers an option for all Indiana counties, more seem to be interested. Cass, Tippecanoe and Wayne Counties took part in a three-year pilot program to study vote centers.
Liming gave advice to the Howard County officials about where to have vote centers and how many to have. She said she had avoided placing vote centers in schools and churches because officials would have to take them down and set them back up.
Wilson said she would avoid putting vote centers in schools and she thinks the mall would be a great idea.
Vote centers allow people to vote at any voting site instead of the traditional style of voting, requiring voters to cast ballots in the precinct where they live.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing to do,” Wilson said. “It’s positive you can go to any of those vote centers and vote.”
Wilson said she was thinking about starting with five vote centers and having an additional five on Election Day. Liming said it is better to start with more because it’s easier to take one away than add one.
“I already have permission and plan to implement voting centers in 2014,” Wilson said. “I’m excited about the money it’s going to save both parties. It’s a good way to move forward.”
• Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or email@example.com.