By Rod Rose For the Times Sentinel
Zionsville Times Sentinel
---- — As a woman walked into the Boone County Courthouse about 4 p.m. Tuesday, poll worker Ernie Wood asked her, “What precinct are you looking for?”“I’m just here to pay my taxes,” the woman replied.“Ma’am, this is election day,” Wood said. “All the offices are closed.”The woman threw up her hands, twirled in disgust, and left.
It was typical of the public’s stunningly apathetic response to Tuesday’s primary election.“It seems like more people have stopped by wanting to pay their taxes than wanting to vote,” said Randy Large, incumbent candidate for Center Township Trustee. Turnout at other precincts he had visited was surprisingly sparse, Large said.“It’s dead,” he said.
Only 7,185 — 16.3 percent — of the county’s registered voters went to the polls, despite ideal weather and several contested races.
In 2012, 12,087 of the county’s 40,833 registered voters cast ballots; 3,139 people voted absentee.
About 20 voters had come to the Boone County Courthouse rotunda by 11:20 a.m., Wood said.“This has been the worst turnout I’ve seen in seven years,” Boone County Clerk Penny Bogan said late Tuesday morning.
Between 15 and 20 poll workers did not show up at their assigned precincts when polls opened at 6 a.m., Bogan said.
Substitutes made up the vacancies, she said “We were able to fill in where needed,” she said. “And, it’s been such a slow turnout.”Vote centers — sites where multiple precincts are based, and at which voters from any precinct can come to cast ballots — are a likely result of Tuesday’s low turnout, Bogan said.“I think people are ready for it,” she said.
Money to establish vote centers would come from the balance of Help America Vote Act funds the county received to help it replace two voting systems within two years. The roughly $158,000 can be spent only to help with federal elections, Bogan said.A plan to install vote centers must first be unanimously approved by the three-person Boone County Election Board, then be passed by the Boone County Commissioners and Boone County Council.
Vote centers are likely to be set up for the November election, Jim Whelan, the Boone Democratic Party representative on the election board, said Tuesday.“Negotiations are almost complete on that,” Whelan said. “Once we get through the primary, the election board will meet again, and probably solidify most of it.”Nine sites, including locations in Advance and Jamestown, are now being considered, he said. “At least, that’s in the plan,” Whelan said.
Debbie Ottinger, Boone GOP chairwoman, said vote centers have several advantages.“I think based on the problems we are having getting and keeping poll workers, they are certainly something we need to look at,” Ottinger said. “The number one issue is, we have to make sure the voters know they aren’t going to lose a voting location, as much as they’ll gain a location to vote.”A Thorntown voter, for example, who works in Indianapolis and was late getting off work could drive to a vote center in Zionsville in time to cast a ballot before polls close at 6 p.m., Ottinger said.
Tom Easterday is the GOP appointee to the election board; Bogan is the other member.