Porter County debates moving early voting sites

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z Porter County debates moving early voting sitesPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | The debate over moving the early voting locations out of the voter registration office in Valparaiso and the Porter County clerk's office in Portage could also impact the Chesterton early voting site and a proposed south county one.

The Porter County Election Board delayed action Friday on a request to move the early voting from the voter's registration office because the office's Democratic co-director Kathryn Kozuscek is a candidate for county clerk. Moving the Portage location in the clerk's offices was sought because County Clerk Karen Martin could be in that office and will be a candidate, too.

The law prohibits candidates from electioneering at a polling place, and it was thought the presence of either candidate in such proximity to the voting could create the impression they were engaging in unlawful contact with voters.

The county Commissioners President John Evans suggested using a vacant nearby room in the county government center building in Valparaiso, and a health department office in the Portage building is a possible alternative there.

Republican leader Kenard Taylor told the board the voting sites are designated by address, and changing the rooms in the buildings isn't really the same as changing the location. County Democratic Party Chairman Jeffrey Chidester said no move is needed and could result in having to hire more people to run back and forth to the voter registration office to verify voter information.

Voter registration Republican co-director Sundae Schoon said computers would be set up in the polling places to verify the information, and no one would have to leave the room. The board asked its lawyer Ethan Lowe to research the issue and provide an opinion for the next meeting.

Martin asked the board to consider opening a south Porter County early voting site as was done in north Porter County in Chesterton two years ago. She told Chairman Dave Bengs she hadn't researched possible locations, waiting for a recommendation from the board.

Katrina Spence, sitting in for the Democratic representative on the board J.J. Stankiewicz, said state law is very specific on satellite locations for early voting, limiting it to "a" location. The county already has two, a move supported by Stankiewicz at the time. Spence said the county shouldn't be opening satellite locations "willy nilly."

The board asked Lowe to provide an opinion on that issue also. The board meets again Friday.

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