New voting machines will require extra space

Monday, January 9, 2023
Courtesy photo

New voting machines coming to the county for 2024 will mean an added level of election security. It will also mean the need for extra storage space.

That is what new County Clerk Tracy Bridges and the Putnam County Commissioners will have to grapple with over the coming months with the arrival of 94 new voting booths, each one outfitted with a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT).

For the 2024 elections, VVPAT units will be required on each voting machine in Indiana.

Last summer, the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office announced that $12.3 million in funding would bring 5,033 VVPATs for 45 counties – which included Putnam.

So while the new units will not cost the county anything, finding a place to store the new units is another story. Bridges and Recorder Heather Gilbert – who essentially traded jobs with Bridges following the 2022 election – explained that the units are wider and longer, as well as doubling in weight from 25 to 50 pounds.

This means that not only is more space needed, but it is no longer recommended to store the units on shelves as is currently the case.

The Commissioners inquired as to whether the voting booths had to be stored in the courthouse, with Vicky Wilson of the Voter Registration Office emphasizing that it would be ideal to keep them on site. Additionally, all of the units would need to be in a locked, climate-controlled environment.

The aim of VVPATs is to boost voter confidence by allowing citizens to verify that their vote was recorded correctly. It should also aid in the recount process.

Presently, only 10 percent of machines in the county are required to have VVPATs. The county uses these for early voting in the courthouse.

No decision was made on the matter.

Looking to the 2023 municipal elections, the Commissioners gave final approval to the City of Greencastle redistricting plan last week.

The City Council had already approved two readings of its redistricting ordinance, but also needed county approval, as the new wards also affect the county’s voting precincts.

City officials had noted that the changes were minimal, only deviating slightly to bring the population of the four wards into balance.

“You can see, the deviations are very small,” City Attorney Laurie Hardwick said, referencing the map in front of the Commissioners.

County officials had no qualms, approving the new plan 3-0.

In an election of their own, the Commissioners also used the first meeting of the year to reorganize. Rick Woodall, who has served as president in recent years, nominated Tom Helmer to be president and David Berry to be vice president. Berry seconded the motion, which passed.

Helmer accepted, but told Woodall, “I think you’ve done a good job.”

In other business, the Commissioners:

• Heard from the Putnam County Health Department of a plan on how to replace outgoing public health nurse Sara Burnett.

Rather than rushing into finding a replacement for Burnett, a registered nurse, Brian Williams, who serves as assistant administrator for PCHD, said the department would like to go in a slightly different direction.

The proposal is to have two licensed practitioner nurses on staff while taking two other unfilled part-time positions in the department and creating a manager on the nursing side.

The idea is to have someone not directly involved with nursing to do the scheduling and having two LPNs take care of all of those duties.

The Commissioners gave the plan their approval, but it must still go before the Putnam County Council for funding considerations.

• Approved an interlocal agreement to perform planning and zoning duties for the Town of Roachdale.

Similar to an agreement already in place with Bainbridge, the town will retain its board of zoning appeals and plan commission, but the county planning department will handle all of the paperwork, retaining the fees charged as payment.

County Planner Lisa Zeiner said she doubted it would add to her department’s workload all that seriously, as Bainbridge has had six cases in the last two years.

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