Vote centers debut in Elkhart County primary vote, with a few bumps and hiccups

Voters reacted positively, but there were logistical snags throughout the day, including a delay in reporting the final 155 votes.

Posted on May 6, 2014 at 11:21 p.m.

Vote centers are officially the new reality in Elkhart County.

And that new reality came with a few bumps and hiccups.

The primary vote Tuesday, May 6, was the first election in the county to implement the voting model, which entailed implementation of updated technology, electronic sign-in procedures and 25 vote centers across the county that any resident could vote at. Previously, Election Day voters could only cast ballots only at the voting place that corresponded to their precinct.

Many said voting under the new system was a snap.

"Some of the seniors came in in wheelchairs," said Donna Enfield, a poll worker at Omega Center and Abundant Life Ministries in Elkhart, one of the 25 vote center sites. "They came out and said, 'It's easier than I thought it would be.'"

But heavy voting at North Side Gym in Elkhart caused lines, and two additional vote machines were sent there to help. North Side drew 1,715 voters throughout the day, making it the most popular vote center. The second busiest vote center was at Trinity United Methodist Church in Elkhart with 1,272 voters.

Five of the vote centers were initially reported to have start-up problems, but Wayne Kramer, chairman of the Elkhart County Election Board, said everything was up and running by 6:07 a.m.

Most notably, perhaps, final results were delayed nearly two hours when it was discovered that one of the 250 memory cards holding election results was left at North Side Gym. The card, containing info on 155 votes, was returned to the center by 10:30 p.m. and results were posted soon after.

"We had some anticipated issues with the newness of the electronic poll book and poll workers logging into it," Elkhart County Clerk Wendy Hudson said. She said the election board will meet over the summer to see what worked and what didn't, then revise future plans accordingly. 

Meanwhile, of 127,113 registered voters in the county, 19,125 cast votes, according to unofficial numbers, resulting in turnout of 15.1 percent. 

That's no huge surprise. Primary voting tends to lag behind general election voting in November, for one thing, and the president isn't up for election this go-round, which also bodes for heavier turnout.

Still, it was lower than in 2012 or 2010.

"It's just about average," Marty Irving, a poll worker at the St. James AME Church vote center in Elkhart, said Tuesday morning. Only 50 or so voters had cast ballots there as of 10:45 a.m., just 13 or so per hour.

Turnout in Elkhart County in the 2012 primary — a presidential election year — totaled 18.9 percent, 23,135 of 122,129 registered voters, according to numbers from the Indiana Election Division. Turnout here in 2010 — which wasn't a presidential year — reached 18.4 percent, 21,730 of 118,309 registered voters.

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