Most in the Region are familiar with the debacle that was Porter County’s Election Day in November.
A bill filed this week in the Indiana Legislature appears to be the proper antidote for the illness of dysfunction, nepotism and absentee leadership that characterized what is supposed to be one of the most sacred institutions of American society.
The Indiana General Assembly should move swiftly to pass the plan, filed by state Reps. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, and Mike Aylesworth, R-Hebron.
Just two short months ago, all hell literally broke loose in the Porter County elections.
The list of what went wrong is a litany of incompetence, infighting and bad government, including:
- 118 to 122 early voters in Portage whose ballots were rendered unusable because election supervisors didn't affix required bipartisan signatures. This occurred even before the disaster that was Election Day.
- Early absentee ballots left in unorganized shambles, meaning election results of a Tuesday Election Day weren't known until Friday of that week.
- A dozen polling locations that didn't open on time, essentially turning away voters who sought to exercise their right and duty as Americans to vote. A judge had to intervene to keep those polling places open longer, but much of the damage already was done at that point.
- Partisan sniping, name-calling and vitriol — instead of workable solutions — slung by members of the existing election office.
- Nepotism taking center stage in the mess, with Democratic election Director Kathy Kozuszek, who also happens to be the wife of the county Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Chidester, who appointed her, contributing a large share of the finger-pointing and vitriol.
- Then-Porter County Clerk Karen Martin, who was supposed to be leading the elections process, hiding from public view for 48 hours while some of the worst parts of the debacle unfolded.
The Soliday and Aylesworth bill to address this disaster strikes the right chords of bipartisan oversight, prohibitions on nepotism and augmented checks and balances in the election process without creating a large or unwieldy board to do it.
Under the bill, a five-person board of elections and voter registration, led by a director, would oversee Porter County elections.
The Democratic and Republican county chairmen each would appoint two members of the board, and those appointees would serve two-year terms.
Those members would have to be Porter County voters and of no family relation to the chairmen making the appointments.
The elected Porter County clerk would serve as the fifth board member.
That duty would fall to newly elected Clerk Jessica Bailey, a Democrat, who said she's "cautiously optimistic" about the proposed legislative fix.
The Soliday and Aylesworth bill also enjoys bipartisan support from Republican and Democratic Porter County commissioners.
The bill was crafted after lawmakers met with local leaders, seeking their input.
It's time for all state lawmakers and the governor to get behind the proposal and bring it to fruition.