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PORTAGE — Candidates in the Portage Township School Board races called the problems in Tuesday's elections in Porter County a "travesty" and "very frustrating."

Both Troy Williams and Joan Machuca, opponents in the District 1 School Board seat, said the problems of delayed poll openings resulting in extended hours, issues over early voting in Portage and counting of ballots have a more significant impact.

"There are just a lot of questions whether or not things have been done properly," said Machuca, 71, of Ogden Dunes, and a longtime teacher, administrator and retired director of the West Lake Special Education Cooperative. "It's very frustrating."

"It is a complete travesty. How do you justify or explain this to voters. This is the type of thing that gets people frustrated with politics and government," said Williams, 47, Portage's police chief. "They fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line."

Machuca said she saw the frustration of voters, who stood in long lines and went through the early voting snafu Oct. 27 in Portage where poll workers didn't sign ballots, causing voters to recast their ballot or have the original ones put into the provisional category.

Both Williams and Machuca said they are concerned those turned away from the polls didn't return for the after-hours voting Tuesday.

Williams said he knew of at least one steelworker who tried to vote in the morning, but was turned away and told the poll workers he wouldn't be returning.

Machuca said she was concerned those turned away in the morning wouldn't know the polling hours had been extended and wouldn't return to cast their votes.

They are seeking the seat presently held by Cheryl Oprisko, who chose not to run for re-election.

Incumbent board member Rhonda Nelson is facing Scott Falk and Mary Clancy for the board's District 2 seat.

Incumbent Andy Maletta is unchallenged for the at-large seat in the election.

Both Machuca and Williams entered the race because they believe their experience can bring a boost to the schools.

Both said, despite Tuesday's issues, the experience has been positive.

"I think it went very well and I feel very confident," said Williams, adding he was touched by the number of people who spoke to him of their support.

"I feel privileged being part of the process," Machuca said. "It was an exciting race for me because I never ran in an election before."

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.