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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE

Thursday, October 12, 2017 1:00 am

Early voting sites changing in '18

Library branches replaced with larger locales


at a glance

Satellite locations for early voting in 2018:

• Manchester University Fort Wayne campus, 10627 Diebold Road

• Public Safety Academy/Ivy Tech Community College-Fort Wayne South Campus, 7602 Patriot Crossing

• Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne, Coliseum campus, 3800 N. Anthony Blvd.

• Indiana Wesleyan University, 8211 W. Jefferson Blvd.

After earlier discussions suggested that Allen County's satellite early voting centers might not continue next year, the county Election Board on Wednesday came to a compromise.

The board agreed the number of sites would remain the same – but the locations would change.

Beth Dlug, elections director, said early voting would end at county public library branches – Dupont, Hessen Cassel, Georgetown and Aboite.

But those sites will be replaced, she said, by locations at the Manchester University's Fort Wayne campus off Dupont Road; the Public Safety Academy/Ivy Tech Community College-Fort Wayne South Campus; Indiana Wesleyan University's Fort Wayne Education and Conference Center near Jefferson Boulevard and Interstate 69; and Ivy Tech Community College's Coliseum Boulevard campus.

The early voting site at Rousseau Centre on East Main Street in downtown Fort Wayne will remain.

Also, Dlug said, a few residents next year will have a new precinct and/or voting location. A new state law allows 2,000 instead of 1,200 people per precinct, she said. That means the county can reduce the number of precincts from 338 to 292, a move that should aid timely vote counting, Dlug said.

Early voting at satellite sites has earned widespread acceptance among Allen County residents, with nearly 15,000 votes cast at the sites during the 2016 general election, according to county statistics.

That election had a heavy turnout and included balloting for U.S. president and vice president.

Dlug said “line issues” at the county libraries caused election officials to rethink the sites, because the number of people waiting to vote sometimes became too large to be contained inside.

In addition, rooms available for voting machines were often small, allowing only six people to vote at one time, she said.

The new sites have enough space for eight machines and also will allow longer voting hours. Instead of opening at 10 a.m., as the libraries do, the new satellite locations will open at 8 a.m., Dlug said.

More machines and longer hours should help with voting in 2018 because many local offices will be on the ballot and “people will take more time,” she said.

Hours at satellites will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday the week before the May 8 primary.

The hours at Rousseau Centre will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning 29 days before the election. On the two Saturdays before the election, hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Rousseau Centre's voting hours will be the same as the satellite hours when those sites open.

All satellites have free parking.

“We're really excited about the new hours, especially the extended morning and evening hours,” Dlug said.

Board members disagreed about satellite locations when pressure was exerted to oppose any early voting sites unless an additional one at the Pontiac library branch on Fort Wayne's south side was established.

Democratic board member Tim Pape proposed adding a different site for the south side at The Summit campus on Rudisill Boulevard, but the motion died for lack of a second. He then moved to approve the other sites and the proposal passed unanimously.

Three other potential satellite locations were considered by election officials – American Legion Post 47 at 601 Reed Road and the St. Joseph and Aboite Township community rooms – but they were not formally proposed to the three-member board.

A resolution formalizing Wednesday's agreement will be voted on in January, Dlug said.

She said the list of precinct changes will be made public next week. Most voters will vote at their accustomed locations, she said, and “only a few (locations) will change.”

The 2018 elections will choose U.S. representatives and senators, state senators, some statewide row offices and some county offices – including sheriff, some county council members and commissioners.

Some local officials and some school board members also will be on the ballot.

Filing to be a candidate begins Jan. 10. The general election will take place Nov. 6.