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VALPARAISO — Porter County voters and candidates are now going to have to wait until at least Friday before learning the outcome of Tuesday's general election.

And Porter County officials offered no comment following a Thursday afternoon meeting with the FBI over alleged election law violations.

The delay in the vote count appears to be the longest in the county's history, according to election officials.

"We told them reliable rather than fast," said J.J. Stankiewicz, the lone Democrat on the three-member county election board.

The update on the vote count came as the election board members made a noon visit to the county voter registration office and then held a short news conference that attracted anxious candidates, voters and community activists.

Republican Election Board Member David Bengs said more than half of the vote has been counted.

But unlike regular elections nights, the results will not be released until all ballots are counted, he said.

The count will still not be final, however. Normal provisional ballots and those cast Tuesday at the dozen precincts that had their hours extended by a judge due to a late opening will be counted Nov. 16, as is typically the case.

The election workers have been instructed to keep counting until it is clear that fatigue is threatening the integrity of their work, at which time they are to call it quits and resume after getting some rest, Stankiewicz said.

The group did not want to comment on the possibility of the count continuing into the weekend.

Republican Election Board member and County Clerk Karen Martin, who has caught most of the blame for the election problems, having taken over the process earlier this year, declined comment.

Martin is among the candidates on the ballots being counted. She is seeking to unseat incumbent Democratic Porter County Auditor Vicki Urbanik.

The count is being conducted by six employees of the election board and/or voter registration office — three Republicans and three Democrats, Stankiewicz said.

The two party-appointed directors of the voter registration office, and one Republican and one Democrat poll watcher are the only other people allowed in during the count. A Porter County police officer is posted just outside the door of the voter registration office on the lower level of the county administration center and outside the clerk's office on the lower level of the nearby courthouse.

In addition to facing problems of late starts at 12 polling places and reports of some mishandled ballots, Bengs said a lot of votes were cast during the contentious midterm election.

"Turnout was huge," he said.

The Election Board plans to make an announcement when the vote count is complete, at which time the results will be posted online on the election page of the county's website.

Kathy Kozuszek, the Democrat director at the county voter registration office, said earlier Thursday that after working 24 hours on Election Day as a result of all the problems, she did not get out of work until 10:30 p.m. Wednesday and was back in the office at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody waded into the local election problems during a news conference in Indianapolis Thursday by saying, "It seems to be a miscarriage of election administration in a number of ways by the Republican clerk.

"It is unacceptable we don't have any election results two days after the election, and they're still counting. There were a lot of mistakes made in the administration of that election."

FBI asked to investigate

Representatives from the county commissioners' office met with the FBI after receiving "scores of alleged violations of Indiana election law submitted by poll workers, voters and the public."

"It's a special task force that does nothing but handle issues that deal with elections," said Porter County Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North before the meeting.

Following the meeting, Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, declined comment on advice of county attorney Scott McClure. 

Tampering with elections is a federal offense, Biggs said, addressing questions about why the FBI was contacted as opposed to Indiana State Police.

"It's right up there with bank robbery," Biggs said. "People take this very seriously."

The target of those allegations was not made known, nor were any further details released.

The Porter County Voter Registration Office had long run local elections until earlier this year, when Martin and Bengs voted to transfer the authority to the county clerk's office headed up by Martin.

While Martin, in her role as county clerk, has been singled out by some as the cause of the late polling places and alleged mishandling of absentee and early ballots, Biggs said the problem is a little wider.

"Karen is not the single problem here," Biggs said. "This was not only her mistake. There is plenty of blame to be passed around here.

"We're trying to maintain any validity that may be left with the election process here in this county."

Biggs said he does not want to see the election process returned to the voter registration office, which is staffed by appointees of the local Republican and Democratic parties.

"You have a five-headed monster down there," he said.

He was referring to the county clerk, voter registration office, county election board and the local Republican and Democratic Party chairs.

The elections should remain under the control of an elected official, Biggs said, but with clear instructions on how to properly carry out the task.

It is the intent of the commissioners' office to get at the bottom of what went wrong with Tuesday's general election and set up a system to see that it does not happen again, he said.

Problems at polls Tuesday

The ballot count for Tuesday's election did not begin until Wednesday morning, or more than 15 hours after the first polling places closed. Twelve polling places failed to open on time Tuesday.

Martin said Tuesday of poll workers, "We had a lot of people quit on us at the last minute."

Additional problems stemmed from poll inspectors not picking up cases of supplies, and sites not being opened when poll workers arrived, she said.

Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds said absentee and early voting ballots were not ready early Tuesday for his officers to deliver to the appropriate polling places required by law.

Stankiewicz said he walked into the county courthouse about 1:05 a.m. Wednesday, and there were women sitting on the floor of the rotunda counting absentee and early voting ballots.

The absentee and early ballots should have been delivered to the Porter County Administration Center a couple of blocks away, he said.

The Election Day problems resulted in emergency court hearings and judges' orders to ensure access to voting and secure the handling of ballots.

The current vote count underway includes all votes cast between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, and all votes cast at early voting locations and absentee ballots by mail.

Times staff writer Daniel Carden contributed to this report.

Check back at nwi.com as this story develops.

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.