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Temperatures rising as Porter County candidates and voters anxiously await election results

Porter County residents converge on the Porter County Administration Center to voice their protest against the vote counting of Tuesday's election.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Republican Party is defending its courtroom efforts to shut down all Porter County polling places at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and is shrugging off the suggestion that the state GOP was attempting to suppress the vote.

A Republican attorney asked Porter Superior Judge Roger Bradford on Tuesday afternoon to rescind his earlier order for 12 voting sites that failed to open on time at 6 a.m. Tuesday to remain open for up to 2 1/2 hours beyond the state's traditional 6 p.m. closing time.

Bradford, a Republican, rejected the party's request. It's not known precisely how many Porter County voters would have been disenfranchised if he had granted it.

There are numerous anecdotal reports of Porter County residents simply giving up on casting a ballot Tuesday when their polling places didn't open, since they had to leave for work and could not get back before voting ended — even with the extended hours in some cases.

Indiana Republican Party spokesman Pete Seat, a Schererville native, said the GOP request that the judge close the polls at 6 p.m. was focused on ensuring election consistency throughout the state and was not aimed at preventing some Hoosiers from casting a ballot.

"We objected to the court's ruling because, as a simple matter of fairness, we believe all voters should be given the same opportunity to vote," Seat said.

In addition, Seat noted that the General Assembly is responsible for setting Indiana's voting hours, and the Republican Party believes decisions on changing those hours "shouldn't be left in the hands of individual judges across the state."

None of the statewide races on Tuesday's ballot, all of which were won by Republican candidates, were directly affected by Porter County's voting issues or the county's still-delayed final results.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody declined to comment on whether he thought Hoosier Republicans were attempting to suppress the vote in Porter County.

But state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, said: "How could you think anything else?"

"You have a Republican clerk who has never done this before, in charge of an election that she has been totally screwing up for two to three weeks," Tallian said, referring to Clerk Karen Martin's alleged improper storage and processing of absentee ballots prior to Election Day.

Tallian also observed that many of the voting sites that did not open on time are located in the northern part of the county where voters generally favor Democratic candidates. 

In addition, several of the affected sites contained multiple precincts, which compounded the number of voters impacted, she said.

Tallian admitted all of that might have been forgivable — until the Indiana Republican Party sought to reverse Bradford's order extending balloting hours so all Porter County residents would have a full 12 hours to vote on Election Day.

"What might have started out as basic incompetence now looks like a concerted effort," Tallian said.

Other Hoosier lawmakers joked Wednesday at the Statehouse that Porter County had become the new Lake County, whose typically slow election night vote counts usually are the subject of derision.

Election Day: Complete Region Results

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.