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Porter County prosecutor candidate Gary Germann said he has been unable to sleep or eat as the local vote count drags on into at least Thursday in the wake of various problems involving polling sites and the handling of ballots.

"I invested my whole self into the election to be able to say I did everything I could to win," he said. "I’m sure the other candidates did the same thing."

"In a word it’s tortuous and an injustice," Germann said. "This should never be allowed to happen again. I’ve talked to poll workers who will never volunteer again along with people who will never vote again. I think we owe them an apology."

Germann, a Democrat, who is seeking to unseat Republican incumbent Prosecutor Brian Gensel, is among the candidates engaged in what many suspect are close or heated election battles and thus anxiously awaiting vote totals along with angry county voters.

Candidates aren't the only ones calling this year's election frustrating. Nearly two dozen voters came to the Porter County Administration Center Wednesday, carrying signs and shouting "count our votes."

"This is a huge debacle," said Drew Wenger, chairman of the Valparaiso Democratic Committee, who also worked the polls Tuesday. "Somebody needs to address what happened last night."

"It is certainly frustrating waiting for the results," Gensel said. "The most important thing is making sure the count is accurate, even if it takes longer than the candidates would like."

Troy Williams, who is in a heated race with Joan Machuca for the District 1 seat on the Portage Township School Board, said, "This avoidable delay erodes the trust of the voters in Porter County and especially in Portage Township."

"There must be a formal inquiry into how this happened," he said. "The candidates and voters deserve transparency and accountability to understand and process this colossal failure in Porter County government."

Machuca said of the delayed vote count, "I'm very frustrated by it."

It is difficult enough, she said, to run a campaign and engage others in support.

"I'm getting so many phone calls from people and they're wondering if their votes counted."

While a school board race may appear to some as not so important, it is a big deal to the Portage Township school community, she said.

Democrat Porter County Commissioner candidate Donna Perdue attended the protest and became emotional as she spoke of her frustration.

"I'm more than frustrated. I can't make sense of it," she said, adding candidates are getting no answers from those who ran the election. "This is completely unacceptable."

Joyce West said she looked for results Tuesday night and was stunned when they weren't available Wednesday morning.

"I was stunned, more than disappointed. You don't expect your county to have a failure like this," said West.

"I was an early voter and I want confirmation my vote counted," said Gail Galvan, of Valparaiso.

Wenger said he believes it may be more than incompetence that has caused the election mess in Porter County.

"I think this is planned chaos," he said, referring to recent pushes by the local Republican party for super voting centers. "They wanted this to happen because they wanted the shift."

Roger Smith, a Valparaiso Republican, told The Times Wednesday he's frustrated as well. He said he's upset that a lack of poll workers is being blamed for the problems. Smith said he wanted to work the polls and applied online in late July or early August.

When he never heard from the clerk's office, he figured he didn't get the job. That was until Monday when he was contacted by one of his "crew members" slated to work a Valparaiso polling place.

Smith said he was never contacted by the clerk, was never told of nor went through training. He was first contacted by County Clerk Karen Martin at noon on Monday through an email, telling him to pick up his suitcase of election materials. He did not work as an inspector Tuesday.

"I do not know Karen Martin and I wish her or her office workers no ill will but this is simply a shame and in my opinion just an attempt to cover up a lack of taking accountability for performing an inadequate job," said Smith.

Martin could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Election Day: Complete Region results

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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.