Technological advancements in the digital age have led to increased convenience, cost savings, and accessibility in many fields. In Indiana, this is now true where elections and voting practices are concerned, thanks to the implementation of vote centers.
Vote centers serve as an alternative to traditional, neighborhood-based precincts. With vote centers, voters may cast their ballots on Election Day at any vote center within the county or jurisdiction, regardless of their residential address. Vote centers must be approved by unanimous decision of the county election board within each county. To date, 36 counties have made the choice to open vote centers.
Under the traditional precinct model, counties must find multiple poll workers, from both parties, to fill potentially hundreds of voting sites. Often, the smallest of these sites only see a handful of voters, making the cost of opening and staffing these precincts unjustifiably high. According to the study Vote Centers and Election Costs: A study of the Fiscal Impact of Vote Centers in Indiana, vote centers produce significant savings for counties and offer local election officials more flexibility. They also reduce voter confusion and administrative time spent by election staff.
Cost savings is a strong argument for vote centers, but not the only argument. One of the central purposes of implementing vote centers is to offer voters convenience and accessibility. Because voters can vote at any center throughout their county, it is easier to schedule a trip to the polls. If their only opportunity to vote on Election Day is during their lunch break at work, they can visit the polling location down the street from their workplace, rather than traveling all the way back to their home precinct. Vote centers increase voter confidence by offering flexibility and an easy election process.
Because a voter can vote at any location in a vote center county, as voters check-in at the polls the electronic poll book is instantaneously updated, which ensures that each voter votes only once. The pollbooks at each location are connected to a mirror of the statewide voter registration database, rather than the actual database itself. This protects the database from potential attacks and allows the pollbooks to be reloaded or reset at any time if a problem occurs. All equipment used at a polling place is certified by the nonpartisan Voter System and Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) at Ball State University prior to the election.
An engaged citizenry is integral to a healthy society, and I encourage all eligible Hoosiers to exercise their right to vote in every election. The higher our turnout, the better we are represented in government. By embracing an easier, cost-effective voting processes for Hoosiers, we step a little closer toward that goal.
To see if your county has implemented vote centers, and to learn more about the process, voters can visit www.in.gov/sos/elections. Hoosiers may also check their registration, look up their polling place, and volunteer to work the polls by visiting www.IndianaVoters.com.