Monroe County’s election board isn’t able to pursue the case of a voter who reportedly engaged in electioneering at the polls during early voting in October last year.
That’s because the board doesn’t know who the man is.
At its Thursday meeting, the board reviewed some initial work on a procedure for documenting future potential incidents of electioneering, so that the people involved can be identified.
At its Thursday meeting, the board also wrapped up the remaining open issue with late campaign finance forms from the last election cycle, which resulted in the calculation of a $900 fine for a candidate.
Not a part of Monroe County’s election board meeting on Thursday was the expected hearing for a voter who is said to have displayed campaign material for his preferred candidate inside the polls during early voting last October.
The complaint that was filed with the board said he was wearing a COVID-19 mask, with the name of his preferred presidential candidate, reportedly Donald Trump. The voter refused to swap to a different mask or turn his own inside out.
He was still allowed to cast a ballot, because state law does not allow election officials to prevent someone from voting.
Thursday’s board meeting included a report on a survey of people who worked the polls for the 2020 elections. The survey showed mostly positive results.
The elections also heard a review during public commentary from a voter’s perspective, given by longtime poll workers Marge and Jim Faber.
Marge Faber told the board, “As a voter, I want to tell you, that was the most fantastic voting experience I’ve ever had.” She added, “And given my age, that means over 60 years worth of voting, because I’ve never missed an election.”
After suggesting some additional signage for the Arlington Elementary School location, Faber wrapped up, saying, “Otherwise, it was fantastic. I should have written you a note earlier, and I forgot.” Thursday’s board meeting marked Faber’s 88th birthday.
At Thursday’s meeting, the chairship of the three-member board transitioned from one party’s appointee to the other, in a longstanding mutually-agreed tradition. Republican Party appointee Hal Turner, who chaired the board in 2020, passed the virtual gavel to Democratic Party appointee Carolyn VandeWiele. The third member of the board is the Monroe County clerk, who is currently Nicole Browne.
In his introductory remarks, Turner commented on the previous day’s events in Washington D.C. when pro-Trump rioters had stormed the Capitol.
“Yesterday, we saw not just an illegal act by 52 people who invaded the Capitol building, but also a gross insult to our democracy and the republic that makes our form of democracy possible,” Turner said.
Monroe County’s election board could eventually wind up conducting an investigation of unlawful electioneering by a voter at the early in-person polls.
The voter has been described as wearing a COVID-19 mask with a candidate’s name printed on it, inside the polling location at Election Central, while voting was taking place. The voter, who was allowed to cast a ballot, refused to swap to a different mask or turn his own inside out.
That appears to be a violation of Indiana’s state election law, which says that electioneering is not allowed inside a polling place.
The definition of electioneering includes “expressing support or opposition to any candidate” and “wearing or displaying an article of clothing, sign, button, or placard that states the name of any political party or includes the name, picture, photograph, or other likeness of any currently elected federal, state, county, or local official.” [IC 3-14-3-16]
It was an election worker who gave the county election board a report on the matter at its Monday morning meeting, which was held to square away any remaining issues before Election Day.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the voter could wind up charged with committing a Class A misdemeanor, according to Matthew Kochevar, who is co-general counsel for the Indiana Election Division.
The punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
To get to an outcome involving jail time and a fine, the county election board could investigate the electioneering allegation at a public meeting of the board under[ IC 3-6-5-31], Kochevar wrote in an emailed message to The Square Beacon. The election board could then vote to forward the matter to the county prosecutor under [IC 3-6-5-32], as a violation of the electioneering statute, Kochevar said.
The time for early in-person voting in Monroe County has been extended on Thursday and Friday (Oct. 29, 30) by one extra hour—until 7 p.m. Early voting on those days will start the same time as previously scheduled, which is 8 a.m.
On Saturday (Oct. 31), an hour has been added to the start of the day and two hours tacked on to the end, to make for a 10-hour day, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The county has one in-person early voting site, at 7th and Madison streets, aka Election Central, in downtown Bloomington.
The extra time was added by the three-member county election board in a unanimous vote taken at its Monday morning meeting.
The board was reacting to the long lines that have persisted at the one early voting site in the county, since early voting started three weeks ago.
On Saturday (Oct. 24), the line started off wrapped around the whole block from 7th and Madison streets, south to 6th Street, west on 6th to Rogers Street, north on Rogers to 7th, and back to Madison. The waiting time to vote has in some cases approached two hours and has consistently ranged between an hour to an hour and a half.