Vote centers plan gets OK
Details still need to be worked out regarding the exact specifics, but Putnam County will move forward with vote centers for the 2018 election.
On Monday, the Putnam County Commissioners gave their blessing to Clerk Heather Gilbert and the election board to transition to vote centers ahead of next May’s primary election.
As the proposal currently stands, the county will go from 29 precinct-specific polling locations to just eight locations at which any registered county voter may cast his or her ballot.
Six of the eight proposed locations remain the same as when Gilbert first presented them to the commissioners a month ago — Putnam County Courthouse, Reelsville Fire Department, Bainbridge Community Center, Floyd Township Fire Department, Putnam County Fairgrounds and Wellspring Christian Church in Marion Township.
Addressing a pair of concerns expressed by citizens, two of the proposed locations have changed.
With a need for a vote center on the East Side of Greencastle, American Legion Post 58 on Indianapolis Road has been proposed, replacing the Greencastle Armory.
Additionally, residents in the Cloverdale area pointed to limited parking availability at Cloverdale Town Hall. Instead, the proposed Cloverdale location is American Legion Post 281 on Main Street (U.S. 231).
One of the main concerns expressed by citizens regarding the move to vote centers has been the inconvenience it causes for those in outlying areas who have to leave their precincts or townships in order to vote.
However, Gilbert pointed out that the proposed locations lie either in population centers for the county or along the main highways that run through the county — U.S. 231, U.S. 36 and U.S. 40.
Election Board member Jack Sutton addressed the reasons for the move and some of the concerns surrounding it.
“We are trying to make voting in Putnam County more accessible to the public and also move us into the 21st century,” Sutton said. “It’s impossible for a vote center to be in everybody’s neighborhood.”
Across the state, 49 of 92 counties have already gone to the vote center model.
Sutton added that although the state only requires three centers for a county the size of Putnam, the Election Board opted for eight to maximize accessibility.
Sutton, a Republican, added that he and Democrat board member Bud Sharp, who was not in attendance, were in agreement on the issues surrounding the move to vote centers.
“We don’t care about a Democrat agenda or a Republican agenda,” Sutton said. “We only care about what is good for the voters of Putnam County.”
Cost savings is another issue Gilbert and the board members have looked at. She told the commissioners the move from 145 workers at 29 locations to 56 workers at eight locations will save an estimated $17,000 per election.
Public comments were requested during the meeting, at which time Cloverdale resident Don Gedert expressed his consternation that a polling location will no longer be housed at the Stardust Hills clubhouse.
Gedert is the property manager of Stardust Hills.
“We are reducing from three locations in Cloverdale down to one,” Gedert said. “We’re the second largest community in Putnam County and I would encourage the board to keep two locations.”
Although Cloverdale is the second largest incorporated community in the county, behind Greencastle, conservancy district Heritage Lake had 2,880 residents in the 2010 census, compared to 2,172 in Cloverdale. Like Cloverdale, Heritage Lake has just one polling location in the current proposal.
Gedert also discussed concerns that most county residents don’t know where Stardust Hills is. He said Stardust Road is undergoing a major upgrade that will increase accessibility and that modern GPS units will help residents find the clubhouse.
Gilbert had already addressed these concerns, saying it was an issue researched by the board.
“We talked to a lot of people in the county and people don’t know where Stardust Hills is,” Gilbert said. “And the signage is not very good for Stardust Hills.”
The exact locations and even number of vote centers is subject to change as the Election Board finalizes its plan. However, the commissioners’ decision ensures that the county is moving forward with vote centers in 2018.
Information on vote center locations will be published once a plan is finalized and as the May 2018 primary approaches.