CROWN POINT | A Republican activist claims election officials were practicing voter suppression "by accident or design" by failing to provide enough electronic voting machines in suburban communities.
"I'm not blaming anybody, but it's a situation that needs to be looked at," Joe Hero said.
Hero, a former chairman of the St. John Republican precinct organization, has been a Republican candidate for public office who has been a frequent critic of the county election board, which sets voting policy.
Voters reported long lines in suburban and south county polling places during the Nov. 2 general election with waits exceeding 30 minutes in communities that normally report lower voter turnout.
The election board this week released final and official voting totals indicating a turnout of 37.6 percent of the county's 316,129 registered voters. There were some disparities in this voting with precincts in Crown Point reporting turnout better than 40 percent while East Chicago reported turnout of less than 35 percent.
Hero complained there weren't enough voting machines in the traditionally Republican strongholds of Cedar Lake, Hobart, Munster and St. John.
He said previous election officials held down Republican votes by sending defective machines to Republican areas. He said he wasn't making that accusation about current board members, but he said voters refused to wait as long as an hour and a half in some locations. "It amounts to de facto voter suppression," Hero said.
Jim Brown, one of two Republican members of the election board, told Hero, "I think you are going over the top, but I want to give you the chance to prove it up. I take allegations like this seriously and I want Mr. Hero to reduce his complaint to writing and produce witnesses. It's time for Mr. Hero to put his facts where his mouth is."
Jim Wieser, an attorney for the election board, said a lengthy referendum question involving property tax caps was partially to blame, causing voters to take longer than usual to complete their ballots.
The election board delayed rulings on a complaint against Crossroads Political Action Coalition and James Snyder and Keith McKinney over allegations they were involved in campaign advertisements that violated state law because they failed to contain disclaimers identifying who authorized and paid for them.