Monroe County’s election board chair on June 2 primary: “We’ll continue to encourage voting by mail as much as we can.”

It’s possible that Indiana’s state election commission will make a decision at its April 22 meeting to eliminate in-person voting from this year’s primary election, now scheduled for June 2.

As they wait out the roughly three weeks until a possible state-level decision, Monroe County election officials are hoping that most voters will eventually take advantage of the vote-by-mail option, which already been made available to all voters for this year’s primary.

The date of the primary has already been delayed by four weeks, in a decision the state commission made last week.

The changes to the timing and manner of the primary elections in the Hoosier state are motivated by the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading across the world. Reducing the opportunity for person-to-person transmission of the virus is a part of myriad protocols now in place across the state and locally. Continue reading “Monroe County’s election board chair on June 2 primary: “We’ll continue to encourage voting by mail as much as we can.””

Encouraging early voting a highlight of Monroe County’s COVID-19 election precautions

When Monroe County’s election board met last Thursday, no cases of the COVID-19 virus had been reported in the state of Indiana.

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This kind of hand sanitizer bottle, here sitting on a table at Election Central,  will be supplemented by stand-alone touch-less dispensers that the Monroe County clerk has ordered. The disinfectant dispensers are expected to be on hand for the start of early voting. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon) 

Over the weekend, Indiana’s health department reported two cases of the pandemic virus. And on Monday the total number of cases was announced at four.

At their meeting last Thursday, Monroe County’s election officials reviewed the precautions they had in place, before any cases had been reported. After the report of the first two cases, officials told The Square Beacon they’re sticking to those precautions, which are based on guidelines for polling stations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC’s guidelines include actions that can be taken before Election Day, like encouraging mail-in and early-voting options. Voting early, even if in person, reduces the size of gatherings, compared to a scenario where everyone votes on Election Day.

County clerk Nicole Browne said at last Thursday’s election board meeting: “We encourage you to vote early. And if you are healthy and able to stand in line, come and vote in-person … but if you have any reservations whatsoever, please request a ballot by mail.” Continue reading “Encouraging early voting a highlight of Monroe County’s COVID-19 election precautions”

SB 82: K-12 school buildings could be banned as Indiana polling places by 2024, based on risk to students

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Arlington Heights Elementary School, where voters in the Bloomington 14 precinct cast their ballots shortly after polls opened at 6 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2019. If SB 82 is passed, the school would not be eligible as a polling location starting in 2024.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Last Thursday’s meeting of Monroe County’s election board included an alert from board member Carolyn VandeWiele about a bill that’s been introduced for this year’s session of Indiana’s General Assembly.

Senate Bill 82 would, starting in Jan. 1, 2024, ban the use of elementary and secondary schools as polling locations. The motivation for the bill is security, according to its sponsor, Sen. Rick Niemeyer (R). Continue reading “SB 82: K-12 school buildings could be banned as Indiana polling places by 2024, based on risk to students”

Monroe county election board looks ahead to 2020 after imposing one fine, waiving two others, finding no violation of electioneering law

Members of Monroe County’s election board met Thursday afternoon to review some logistical issues related to elections in 2020 and to wrap up some loose ends from this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington. Continue reading “Monroe county election board looks ahead to 2020 after imposing one fine, waiving two others, finding no violation of electioneering law”

Election equipment vendor choice for Monroe County still getting mulled by board, vote centers unlikely for 2020

The Bloomington city council’s most recent regular meeting fell on Nov. 6, the day after municipal elections were held in Bloomington for just two of six council districts.

Elections had been cancelled by the election board in the other four districts because races were uncontested there. None of the citywide races—mayor, clerk, or at-large city council seats—had more than one candidate on the ballot and no write-in candidates were registered.

A couple of councilmembers on Wednesday mentioned vote centers, as opposed to precinct polling stations, as something that should have been tried, so that elections could have been held everywhere, without incurring too much additional expense.

Asked by The Beacon on Friday, the election board chair, Carolyn VandeWiele, said that completing the statutory process for establishing vote centers for this year’s municipal election, even starting in July, would not have been feasible. It’s also probably not practicable for 2020, she said.

Of more immediate concern is the acquisition of new voting equipment.

Responding to a question about the timetable for selecting a vendor for the county’s new election equipment, VandeWiele said on Friday the committee making the selection was behind the optimal schedule outlined in the county’s request for proposals (RFP). The timetable in the RFP foresaw a vote on the recommended vendor by the county commissioners by their Nov. 6 regular meeting.

The committee is still waiting for answers to questions that it has asked of the state’s election division and the vendors themselves. VandeWiel also said the committee is checking references for the two vendors. The next meeting of the vendor selection committee is scheduled for Nov. 18, she said.

VandeWiel told The Beacon that even if the committee is right now a little behind the optimal timeline laid out in the RFP, “We won’t be behind when it comes to having equipment for the spring…We still have a fair amount of time to deal with this. We will have the equipment on time. It’s just a matter of making sure we’ve crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s.” Continue reading “Election equipment vendor choice for Monroe County still getting mulled by board, vote centers unlikely for 2020”

Bloomington’s municipal elections: 12 hours left on Election Day to make up for light early voting

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Monroe County’s election board met on Monday evening at Election Central at 7th and Madison streets (Note the white board note: “Countdown to 2019 Municipal Elections 1 day”) The board’s business on Election Day Eve included certifying a list of 28 incomplete registrations. From left are the three election board members: Hal Turner, Carolyn VandeWiele, and Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Brown. Behind the counter is deputy clerk Tressia Martin and election supervisor Karen Wheeler. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Early voting at Election Central in Bloomington’s municipal elections ended Monday at noon.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polls are open for twelve hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Based on early voting totals, the lack of competition in citywide races and four of the six council districts looks like it could be having the kind of negative impact on turnout that was predicted, especially in District 3.

Compared to 2015’s numerical count of early vote totals, District 2 is down this year by 14 percent. District 3 is down 58 percent. Continue reading “Bloomington’s municipal elections: 12 hours left on Election Day to make up for light early voting”

Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.”

Carolyn VanddeWiele, a Democrat who chairs Monroe County’s three-member election board, led the group at its meeting last Thursday through its routine final preparations for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

Part of that prep included some announcements of key dates. Oct. 7 is the last day to register to vote in Bloomington municipal elections. And the first day for early voting is Oct. 21.

Both main items on the agenda reflected the fact that this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington will be held in just two out of the city’s council districts—District 2 and District 3.

One agenda item, approval of the official legal notice, called out District 2 and District 3 as the only districts where elections will be held. That’s because of an election board decision made at its Aug. 1 meeting. The board based its decision on the fact that the city-wide races for mayor, clerk and councilmember at large, are all uncontested—a situation that’s unprecedented in Bloomington—and the races in the other four districts are uncontested. Continue reading “Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.””

Zietlow to election board on its decision against elections: “Voting is the primary duty of citizens in a democracy.”

At Thursday afternoon’s meeting of Monroe County’s election board, a question decided by the board two months ago was again raised in front of the three-member body: Should municipal elections be held on Nov. 5 in Bloomington, even in districts where none of the races are contested?

On Thursday, the question was brought up during public commentary by Charlotte Zietlow, whose impact on the political life of Monroe County dates back at least to 1972, when she took a seat on the Bloomington city council, which was followed eight years later by her election to the county’s board of commissioners.

Zietlow’s answer: Yes, elections should be held even where races are uncontested.  Continue reading “Zietlow to election board on its decision against elections: “Voting is the primary duty of citizens in a democracy.””

County election board makes it official: No general elections in Bloomington except for District 2 and District 3

After two separate votes on Thursday afternoon, the chair of Monroe County’s election board, Carolyn VandeWiele announced, “You have your ballot, Karen!” The remark was directed to election supervisor Karen Wheeler, who can now continue the process of printing Bloomington’s ballots for the city’s Nov. 5 general election.

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Monroe County Election Board, Aug. 1, 2019. From left: deputy clerk Tressia Martin; chair Carolyn VandeWiele; and Larry Barker. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

No ballots will be printed for Bloomington elections in District 1, District 4, District 5 or District 6—because there are no contested races in those districts. Just the names of the candidates in contested races will be printed on the ballots in the other two districts.

In the District 2 city council race, Democrat Sue Sgambelluri, who won the three-way  primary, will appear on the ballot with Republican Andrew Guenther, who was unopposed in the Republican primary.

In the District 3 city council race, Democrat Ron Smith, who won the primary, will appear on the ballot with independents Nick Kappas and Marty Spechler. Continue reading “County election board makes it official: No general elections in Bloomington except for District 2 and District 3”