INDIANAPOLIS — The House Elections Committee chairman who scuttled a proposal mandating consolidation of Lake County's numerous "small" voting precincts might be willing to advance a similar measure approved Monday by the Senate.
State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said Tuesday that he's planning to closely monitor throughout March whether Lake election officials genuinely are working toward a bipartisan precinct consolidation plan.
If he determines they are cooperating as promised on Feb. 1 when he killed House Bill 1147, then he said he'll similarly stick Senate Bill 220 in a drawer.
If not, Smith indicated he's prepared to forward to the full House the legislation requiring Lake County merge precincts with fewer than 600 active voters.
"I'm going to give them time to sit down and talk as a group to try to work out their differences," Smith said. "If they're not able to do it, I'll hear the bill."
Senate Bill 220, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate 38-11.
It would give the county election and registration board a limited period later this year to devise a plan to merge as many of Lake County's small precincts as possible, subject to state approval.
Niemeyer said precinct consolidation could save the county more than $100,000 every election year by reducing the costs of staffing and equipping polling places that may only see a handful of voters.
State Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville, voted "no" on the legislation. He said he's not opposed to precinct consolidation, but does not believe the state should interfere with the local consolidation effort that's already underway.
The House sponsors of Niemeyer's proposal are state Reps. Hal Slager, R-Schererville; Julie Olthoff, R-Crown Point; and Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron.