What is a Vote Center?
Simply put, a vote center is a polling place where any eligible voter in the county may go to vote. The vote center model gives voters more flexibility on Election Day because they are not constrained to a specific polling location. Vote centers are connected through secure internet connections, and as ballots are cast, an electronic poll book is instantaneously updated.
Here is a video with more vote center information.
From 2007 to 2010, the Indiana Secretary of State's office ran the Vote Center Pilot Program, where three Indiana counties, Wayne, Tippecanoe, and Cass counties, used the vote centers concept to determine if it would be a viable option for election administration in Indiana. After three years and numerous elections, the pilot program was a success, and in 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 32 and House Enrolled Act 1242 and the Governor signed both pieces of legislation, making vote centers an option for any Indiana county.
The purpose of this web page is to provide you with all the available information on vote centers in Indiana in an effort to be transparent and to aid those counties that are considering a switch to vote centers.
Below you will find interviews with the three vote center pilot county clerks, studies from independent groups regarding vote centers in Indiana, a seven step plan to becoming a vote center county, and much, much more. Keep coming back to get all the latest information, as we will be adding more information as time goes on.
Vote Center Report
In 2013, Secretary Lawson traveled the state to discuss vote centers with county clerks and other county officials. She collected feedback from current vote center clerks and those that attended the regional vote center meetings. Secretary Lawson’s goal was to provide those interested in vote centers the information necessary to decide whether vote centers were a good idea for their county and also to collect feedback on vote center best practices and concerns from around the state.
The purpose of this report is to provide a summary of the information we have gathered over the past few months for the benefit of counties that are still investigating, considering and deliberating about the vote center model. To view the report, please click here.
What is the Vote Center Law?
After immense success in Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties (who piloted the vote centers concept for Indiana from 2007-2010), the Indiana House and Senate passed legislation allowing all Indiana counties the option of becoming vote center counties.
Under the Vote Center Pilot Program, Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties submitted the following applications. Obviously, under the new legislation, county vote center plans will differ slightly from the three original pilot county plans.
*Vanderburgh and Fayette counties submitted vote center plans to the Indiana Election Division in August 2011.
*Blackford County, Johnson County, and Switzerland County filed their vote center plans to the Indiana Election Division in March-April 2012.
*Hancock County, Miami County, Noble County, and Vigo County filed their vote center plans with the Indiana Election Division in 2013.
-Hancock County (Hancock County Election Board order and submittal letter) (Amendment) (Amendment #2)(Amendment #3) (Amendment #4) (Amendment #5) (Amendment #6) (Amendment #7) (Amendment #8)
-Miami County Plan and Amendments 1-2 (Amendment #3)
-Noble County Noble County Plan Amendment #1 Amendment #2
-Vigo County Plan and Amendments 1-3; Vigo County Amendment #4 Vigo County Amendment #5 Vigo County Amendment #6 Vigo County Amendment #7 Vigo County Amendment #8 Vigo County Voter Center Plan Amendment #9 Vigo County Voter Center Plan Amendment #10
*Bartholomew County, Boone County, Carroll County, Clay County, Elkhart County, Wabash County, and White County filed their vote center plans with the Indiana Election Division in 2014.
Clinton County, Henry County, Huntington County and Wells County filed their vote center plans with the Indiana Election Division in 2015.
Adams County, Howard County, Marshall County, Montgomery County, Owen County and Pulaski County filed their vote center plans with the Indiana Election Division to be used for the first time in 2016.
Is the Vote Center Model Economically Feasible?
Two recent studies have shown vote centers can be a good way to control local government costs. The Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute recently released the study “Vote Centers and Election Costs: A Study of the Fiscal Impact of Vote Centers in Indiana.” While it is possible that counties will save money using vote centers, the purpose of the vote centers concept is to increase voter convenience and accessibility.
The key findings of the study include:
- Vote Centers can produce significant savings for counties that implemented them. Such savings are particularly noticeable in counties with a low number of registered voters per precinct. Also, counties that already locate more than one precinct in the same location could experience significant cost savings.
- Vote Centers give local election officials more flexibility. With precincts, the number of locations and the level of staffing are fixed. County officials can do little to reduce cost per vote. With Vote Centers, election administrators can anticipate turnout and modify the number of locations and the level of staffing to suit their needs.
- Vote Centers can produce immediate and long-term savings. This study finds savings could result every election day as well as when time comes to repurchase voting equipment.
- Vote Centers will significantly reduce the number of voting machines needed to conduct an efficient election.
Pilot Vote Center County Clerks: Video Q&A
County Clerks from Tippecanoe, Cass and Wayne County discuss their experiences with vote centers as a panel:
Seven Steps to Becoming a Vote Center County
Are vote centers right for your county? If your county is considering making the switch to the vote center model, the process can be summarized into seven steps.
Step One: Gauge Interest
Remember, vote centers are not right for every county. The first step on the road to becoming a vote center county is to gauge the interest of the community by talking to leaders in and out of government. Ultimately, county council members and county commissioners have to, by majority vote, pass resolutions simply approving a county's designation as a vote center county. Unanimity is not required, and since these bodies only have to pass resolutions, the county draft vote center plan does not have to be presented to them at this early stage.
These resolutions are about confirming that the county is open to the potential change, not about actually making the change. Since council members and commissioners represent county citizens directly, their vote on vote centers can serve as a good temperature gauge for whether or not a county is open to the possibility of change.
Of course, only getting resolutions passed is not enough at this early stage. It is also important to discuss this possible change with all members of the county election board and other leaders in the community, even outside of government. After all, county clerks do not want to go through the work of drafting a county vote center plan and then fail to get unanimous support on their election board because of lack of prior communication.
Step Two: Form a Study Committee
We recommend that you form a study committee to evaluate if vote centers are right for your county.
Topics to discuss include:
- Infrastructure and Technology
- Electronic Poll Books
- Training and Procedures of poll workers
- Early Voting
- Preparing voters (sample press release)
You will want your study committee to be as diverse as possible, made up of a wide-variety of people who represent different areas of the election process. (Example: an experienced poll worker, a county commissioner, a county council member, an IT specialist, etc.)
Here is a sample letter asking an individual to participate in a study committee.
Step Three: Draft Your Plan
Draft a detailed and thorough vote center plan. In your plan, include resolutions passed by commissioners and council members. This is the result of the work of your study committee.
A Sample Vote Center Plan
Step Four: Seek Public Comment
After your vote center plan is complete, open the draft for public comment for at least 30 days. You may want to amend your plan based on the comments of the public.
Step Five: Election Board Approval
Your vote center plan needs to be unanimously passed by your county's election board. The election board may also offer amendments to the plan. To amend a vote center plan that has already been unanimously passed by the election board or to abolish vote centers, a unanimous vote of the county election board is required.
Step Six: File Your Plan
No state approval of your plan is necessary. It just has to be on file, along with any future amendments, at the Indiana Election Division.
Draft a letter to the Election Division requesting your county's switch to vote centers and include it with your plan.