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Vote Center Information

What is a Vote Center?

Vote centers offer flexibility and convenience to voters, by allowing them to cast a ballot at any county location of their choosing on Election Day.

Using vote centers is an alternative to traditional precinct-based voting, where voters were assigned a specific voting location in their neighborhood.

In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 32 and House Enrolled Act 1242. The Governor signed both pieces of legislation, making vote centers an option for any Indiana county.

To date, well over half of Indiana counties have moved to the vote center model. Vote centers add convenience for voters, save counties money and can increase voter turnout.

Here is a video with more vote center information.

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.

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.

In addition, Ball State University's Bowen Center  released a study on the conveniences of vote centers. (Summary)

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:

Did you form a study committee?

Was there resistance from community leaders?

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

What was the greatest benefit?

What types of technology did you need?

Were their cost savings?

How has poll worker training changed?

What was the constituent response like?

Is there a sense of community at vote centers?

What outside organizations should you work closely with?

What is your most beneficial piece of advice?

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.

Here are sample resolutions for both the county council and the county commissioners

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:

  1. Infrastructure and Technology
  2. Electronic Poll Books
  3. Training and Procedures of poll workers
  4. Early Voting
  5. Preparing voters  (sample press release)
  6. Cost

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.

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.

Step Seven: Learn from Experience

Continue to evaluate vote centers in your county with every passing election. Amend your plan where necessary and file amendments with the Indiana Election Division.