When Switzerland County residents go to the polls for the Primary Election in May – and again for the General Election in November – voters will be experiencing a whole new way to vote.
Switzerland County Clerk Kim Hambrick has announced that the county, beginning this May, will be switching over to voting centers for election. She said that legislation signed last year by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels opened the way for counties to move to voting centers; and she hopes that this will make voting more accessible to the entire county.
The voting centers take the place of the traditional polling places, which in the past have been located all around the county on Election Day. Voters have also been able to vote in the courthouse at designated times prior to election day, and also have been able to vote by absentee ballot.
Now, instead of the 12 different precincts all voting on one day; the new voting centers will circulate throughout the county for days leading up to election day; and then there will be one voting center open on election day itself.
For the upcoming Primary Election:
- The voting center will be at the Moorefield Firehouse on Wednesday, April 25th, from 8 a.m. until noon; and again on Thursday, April 26th from 2-7 p.m.
- The voting center will be at the East Enterprise Firehouse on Friday, April 27th, from 8 a.m. until noon; and again on Monday, April 30th from 2-7 p.m.
- The voting center will be at the Vevay Municipal Building on Seminary Street on Saturday, April 28th, from 8 a.m. until noon.
- The voting center will be at the Patriot Town Hall on Tuesday, May 1st, from 8 a.m. until noon; and again on Wednesday, May 2nd from 2-7 p.m.
- The voting center will be at the Florence Firehouse on Thursday, May 3rd, from 8 a.m. until noon; and again on Friday, May 4th from 2-7 p.m.
- The voting center will be at the Vevay Municipal Building on Seminary Street on Saturday, May 5th, from 8 a.m. until noon.
– On Monday, May 7th, the voting center will be at the Vevay Municipal Building on Seminary Street from 2-7 p.m.
On Election Day, Tuesday, May 8th, there will only be one polling place open in the entire county: The Vevay Municipal Building will be open for voting from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. that day.
Kim Hambrick hopes that this increases voters going to the polls because the voting center is in different locations around the county at different times, but anyone can go to any center on any day and vote – even if they don’t reside in that area of the county.
For example, a person living in the Pleasant area who works across the river may decide on Monday, April 30th, as they come across the Markland Dam after work that they want to go over to the Florence Firehouse and vote. They can do that.
A resident of Patriot who finds themselves at the bank in East Enterprise on Friday, April 27th, can run over to the firehouse and vote. People who work during the week can vote in Vevay on Saturdays or at any of the other locations in the evening. People who work nights can go to a voting center and cast their ballot in the morning when it’s convenient.
“We’re going to be posting the times for early voting in the media, and we’re also going to be sending out flyers to each home address in the county,” Kim Hambrick said. “We want people to know when the vote center is in their area. We don’t want to disenfranchise any voter. We will still have absentee voting and mail out ballots.”
Absentee voting will be done at the Switzerland County Courthouse, because there has to be a distinction between absentee ballots and vote center ballots, but all will be counted as usual.
The statewide system was tested in three pilot counties: Wayne, Cass and Tippecanoe during the last election; and now that the Governor has approved it, all Indiana counties will be going to the system in the near future. Kim Hambrick chose to begin with the primary election because everyone on the ballot is being voted on county wide, so it gives her staff the chance to see the system in action without a lot of variables.
“We have 6,757 voters as of right now, but voter registration doesn’t stop until April 9th, which is the first day of absentee voting,” Kim Hambrick said.
Another big benefit of the voting centers is savings, and one of the reasons that Kim Hambrick chose to start the centers with this election was financial.
“My budget had to be cut,” she said. “The county, like everyone else, was looking for ways to save money, and this will save about $60,000 from my budget.”
The savings come because with the new system there is only one election board, as opposed to 12 in the past. There are also only five workers, as opposed to seven. It means no rent for facilities, no meals for workers. The five workers will travel with the center, so there won’t be the need to find new workers in each location.
“Anyone interested in sitting on the board, please contact me,” the clerk said. “The spots are up to the precinct committeemen to pick, but if you’ve been a poll worker in the past and you think you’d like doing this again, it’s not an all day thing like before. You’ll be in one spot in the morning one day, then there in the evening the next.”
Kim Hambrick said that she is anxious to see how voter turnout responds to the voting centers. She said in the three pilot counties, voter turnout rose from 66-80 percent over the traditional polling places.
“We have a lot of voters who work out of this county,” Kim Hambrick said. “There shouldn’t be any reason why they can’t vote now. I look for Florence to be the busiest, because of all of the workers coming over the dam.”
Savings also comes in the elimination of paper ballots, and now everyone will be voting on the voting machines electronically. Kim Hambrick said that the machines, which have been available for the past several elections, are very easy to use, and anyone who wants to see a machine prior to voting on one can stop by the clerk’s office and she or a member of her staff will show them exactly how it works.
The actual voting plan is now posted on the county website: www.Switzerland-County.com, and will be there for at least 30 days. The plan is also posted at places like the Switzerland County YMCA, the Switzerland County Public Library, the courthouse, Patriot Town Hall, and the Soil and Water Conservation District office.
Anyone having any questions or feedback on the new voting centers can contact the clerk’s office at 427-4415; or email those to email@example.com.
“Once the plan is drafted, it’s not set in stone,” Kim Hambrick said. “We can either delete or add as need be. This is a trial run in May to see how it goes. Maybe we need to reverse things in the fall, we don’t know, but we are very open to comments and suggestions by county residents.”