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Election board president resigns amid vote tally controversy

Election board president resigns amid vote tally controversy

Voting at Frank Hammond Elementary School

"I voted" stickers are displayed out at the polls on Tuesday, June 2 at Frank Hammond Elementary School in Munster.

LaPORTE – The president of the LaPorte County Election Board has resigned in the wake of delays in vote tallying and what some people view as numerous other red flags in the June 2 primary.

The LaPorte County Election Board is scheduled to meet Friday at 2 p.m. to certify the vote totals before sending them downstate as required.

Local Democrats and Republicans upset over how the process unfolded plan to be there seeking answers to questions they say have been ignored.

“They have to be accountable and answer these questions. They don’t want to be accountable. They don’t want to answer questions,” said LaPorte County Republican Party Chairman Mitch Feikes.

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Andrew Voeltz, the LaPorte County Republican Party’s representative on the three member democrat controlled election board, stepped down Sunday.

Feikes said he offered no explanation in his letter of resignation.

“I’m sure there’s some things that went on that he wasn’t happy with,” Feikes said.

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The vacancy was filled Wednesday by Chuck Waterson of LaPorte.

Waterson is an associate with the Michigan City law firm Braje, Nelson and Janes.

Voeltz and Waterson could not be reached for comment.

Much of the controversy stems from a 48-hour delay in counting all of the votes election officials blame on mail-in voting being nearly 10 times higher than the 2016 primary due to COVID-19.

Other concerns expressed include conflicting vote totals and lack of transparency before and after the election.

LaPorte election official, candidate questions absentee ballot totals

Feikes also said he was not given the opportunity to appoint members from his party to help oversee the ballot counting as required by state law.

He said there were republicans present but they were chosen primarily by democrats running the election.

“They chose them on their own,” Feikes said.

A week after the election, Heather Stevens, co-director of the LaPorte County Voters Registration Office, called attention to what she alleged were at least 89 missing absentee ballots from Coolspring Township.

Stevens, the Republican nominee for LaPorte County Clerk, faces incumbent democrat Kathy Chroback in November.

Attempts to reach Chroback, also a member of the election board, were not successful.

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Chroback on Tuesday did shed light on the issue by releasing a letter from Microvote Corporation, the Indianapolis based vendor used for counting the ballots.

In the letter, Mike Miller, president of the company, said the absentee ballots at question totaled 111 and they were not counted due to human error with a counting machine.

He said the ballots after the mistake was discovered were counted on Tuesday.

There were no changes in the outcomes of any of the major races.

Tim Gust, the democratic nominee for State Representative from District 20, has asked the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate if any criminal violations were committed.

Gust said he has no evidence of any crimes but wants to make sure there were no improprieties and preserve the integrity of future elections.

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If anything, he said the mistakes likely point to what he called “incompetence.”

“It shows laziness and people who are not double checking their work and I think that’s what we’re looking at across the board here,” Gust said.

Gust said he also tried to get an explanation from election officials but none of his messages have been returned.

He said answered were also not provided during a visit he paid to the county clerk’s office Tuesday in LaPorte.

“It’s kind of a head scratcher to me and I think the community deserves these answers. I don’t think they’re unreasonable questions,” Gust said.

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