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Community leaders hold public forum on vote centers

Lesia Meer speaks at a public forum about vote centers in Delaware County on Nov. 4, 2021, at Southside Middle School.
Lesia Meer speaks at a public forum about vote centers in Delaware County on Nov. 4, 2021, at Southside Middle School.

MUNCIE, Ind. -- Delaware County voters attended a public forum at Southside Middle School on Thursday to share their thoughts on vote centers. 

Currently, Delaware County elections are held based on electoral precincts, where voters can only vote in one place based on their address. If Delaware County switched to vote centers, there would be fewer places to vote in the county, but voters would be able to cast their ballot at any of the polling locations across the county. 

Andrew Popp is a political candidate in Delaware County’s District Five. He said he hopes vote centers could make voting more accessible, and encourage higher voter turnout. 

“Voting is important, not as a candidate but as an American citizen. It’s the key to our republic,” Popp said. “The more people you have vote in an area, that gives you a better representation of what the area thinks.” 

Indiana is one of only 18 states that allows vote centers in elections. More than half of the counties in Indiana already use vote centers.

Mike White is a former President of the Delaware County Election Board, and part of the group pushing for the switch to vote centers now. But he said this isn’t the first time local leaders have tried to make the change. 

“This is something I’ve been trying to get accomplished for a very long time,” White said. “The people who get the advantage are the voters.”

White and five other local leaders have formed a bi-partisan study committee to research vote centers in Indiana and work with the public to develop a plan for how they could be implemented in Delaware County. The group is led by Lesia Meer and Jessica Whitehead. Meer and Whitehead are taking on the subject as part of their capstone project for a Ball State University certification course in Election Technology

For Meer and Whitehead, Thursday’s forum was the first step towards vote centers in Delaware County. They said opinions from the public are vital to figuring out what voters need to create a system that works for them. 

Charles Taylor is a Delaware County resident who attended the forum. He said he hopes the group will consider working with MITS to make sure vote centers are available to everyone. 

“I think the key thing is gonna be where the vote center locations are going to be,” Taylor said. “To make sure it doesn’t reduce accessibility to voting for anybody.” 

After the study group develops a plan with public input, there are four steps for the county to make the change to vote centers. First, the election board would determine the locations of vote centers and how many would exist. Current research by the study committee suggests there could be as many as 26 vote centers. 

Once the Election Board selects locations, they would hold a public hearing to present the plan to the community. Then the Board would vote on the plan. To approve the switch to vote centers, all three members of the Board would have to vote in favor of the plan. 

If the plan passes the election board, it would continue on to the Delaware County Commissioners for approval. 

Sherry Riggin is a County Commissioner and is also participating in the vote center study committee. She said a switch to vote centers would improve voting in Delaware County. 

“It’s so easy because you can stop someplace on your way to work, go in, register, show your ID, vote, and you’ll be out,” Riggins said. “We just hope people will give us the yes.” 

Meer and Whitehead said the group wants to hear from as many voters as possible. Delaware County residents can fill out a survey about vote centers online.

The study commission is also planning to hold a second public forum on Nov. 16 at Muncie Central High School starting at 6:00 p.m.