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INBOX: Voter Experience Project

April 10, 2013
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Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

During the last week of March, Marion County political leaders, elected officials, poll workers and community groups convened in the Public Assembly Room of the City-County Building to begin the discussion about the future of voting in Indianapolis. Launched in February, the Voter Experience Project is the Marion County Election Board’s effort to listen, deliberate and ultimately decide how and where we will vote in the future.

Why are we having this conversation now? Our current fleet of voting equipment is more than 10 years old. Purchased in 2002, the first generation machines are starting to show signs of wear despite a vigorous maintenance schedule. Replacement parts are also becoming more difficult to find. In addition, our software license and maintenance contract expire in 2014, and we don’t know if the software vendor will continue to support their product after next year.

I’m not trying to sound the alarm about our equipment – yet. The technology still has plenty of useful life left and we will continue to conduct fair, safe and secure elections. The Voter Experience Project will allow us to discuss our future needs and gather consensus from our community now to make better, more informed decisions. Like my grandpa used to say: “Fix the roof while the sun is still shining!”

There are currently two kinds of Election Day voting in Indiana: precinct-based and vote centers. In Marion County, we run precinct-based elections, meaning voters go to their home precinct to vote; vote centers mean you can vote anywhere in the county. There are costs and benefits to each, but the voting method chosen by a county is largely driven by the type of voting equipment it uses.

Marion County’s voting technology currently does a great job of meeting the needs of a precinct-based election; it would not work in a vote center model. Our equipment that accepts paper ballots is programmed to only read and tabulate results for one precinct, meaning 600 scanners would be deployed to one vote center – essentially, our entire fleet. Obviously this isn’t a workable solution.

The cost equation for each model differs, too. The county purchased enough ballot scanners (those gray boxes you use to feed your ballot) for each precinct and enough touch-screen machines for each polling place. Vote centers would require purchasing different technology – most likely resulting in a larger, more costly fleet of voting machines.

Finally, location is another critical factor to consider when deciding between the options. There are about 1,200 registered voters in each precinct. By Indiana law, vote centers have to accommodate up to 10,000 voters. Clearly it’s easier to find sites that can meet the needs of a smaller group of people, especially in a large, urban city like Indianapolis. While precinct-based elections require sites to be located in or near a voter’s neighborhood, vote centers allow for placement closer to where we shop, work and play.

These are just a few of the issues the study group will be debating and deliberating over the next few months. Study group meetings are open to the public, and you can learn more online at www.indy.gov/VEP or catch them on Channel 16. Later this summer the Board will announce the dates of the community conversations where all voters can provide their input.

I’m excited to begin this important dialogue and want to thank the members of the study group in advance for their time, energy and effort. I look forward to this critical community conversation!

Sincerely,
Elizabeth L. White
Marion County Clerk

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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