Thursday, January 12, 2012

There Has Got To Be A Better Way - Election Day Looking To Be Chaotic

The way election district and precinct lines are drawn in Indiana needs some serious consideration for coordination.  It would serve the public interest in less voter confusion and far lower costs to run the elections themselves.

In a previous blog entry ("New Precincts and Proposed New Council Districts") I mentioned how the new precinct lines in Marion County were drawn AFTER the various Township Boards drew their districts.  The Boards had to redraw the districts after the 2010 census results were available, but prior to November 8, 2011, to give ample time before their election year, which is 2012.

2012, mind you, is also the Presidential Election year, which always attracts the best voter turnout.

For those of us who man the polling sites, these things matter because the greater the number of ballots, the greater the chance for confusion and voters getting the wrong ballot. 

Even if there were minimum numbers of ballots in every precinct, this year will be confusing to voters because many will be voting in a new location.  Most voters do not remember their precinct number, just their voting place.  So, the fact that the precinct number changed is of little concern.  But, where those lines were moved, then the expatriated voters must find their way to a new poll.  Hopefully the Election Board or the Voter Registration or whoever is responsible for such things, will notify everyone of their new precinct and polling location.  This  is expensive, of course.  But, there are more costs to pile up this election year.

At every Primary you have at least 4 ballots.  You have the Democratic Party ballot and the Republican Party ballot.  In addition, anyone who will be 18 years old by the day of the General Election in November, but who on Primary Day is still 17, does have the right to vote.  But, they vote on the '17 year-old' ballot, which lists only those races that will not be finally decided until November.  Thus you have a 17 year-old Democratic Party ballot and a 17 year-old Republican ballot.  So, at the least encumbered precinct on Primary Election Day, you have at least 4 ballots.

At every General Election you drop to 1 ballot in the least encumber precinct.

With that stage set, lets look at the complexity caused by the re-drawing of precinct lines without consideration of the Township Board districts, which had already been set.

Here in Decatur Township, we now have 16 precincts and 7 Township Board districts.  This morning I sat and compared both maps with an eye toward how many Board districts were represented in each precinct. 

Of 16 total precincts, 8 will have only one Board district election, 6 will have two Board district elections, and 2 will have three Board district elections.

So, for 8 of our precincts, there will be 4 ballots on Primary Election Day and 1 ballot on General Election Day.

For 6 of our precincts, there will be 8 ballots for the Primary and 2 ballots for the General.

For 2 of our precincts, there will be 12 ballots for the Primary and 3 ballots for the General.

Now, that is a lot of different ballots and a lot of cost to print and properly distribute the assortment.  I do not know how the voting machine programing costs fluctuate according to the number of different ballots in one precinct.

During the budget hearings for the Election Board, the City Controller's office argued that the Election Board did not need as much money as they asked for, and so the Election Board's requested budget was cut by some $400,000.  It was stated that the law requires the City to pay whatever expenses are incurred for elections, regardless of what was budgeted.  The Election Board's requested budget was calculated from previous Presidential election year expenses, and could not take into account the massive re-precincting that would be announced in November.  (Yet another reason why then-Council President Ryan Vaughn should have come clean and let everyone know he had already let a contract to re-precinct.)

So we have a self-inflicted situation where the uncoordinated re-precincting and re-districting will lead directly to massive numbers of ballot configurations, amplified costs to organize and run the 2012 elections, and what I think will be voter confusion and frustration the likes of which we haven't seen in decades.

There has got to be a better way and the public deserves some consideration by those in power as to how to fix this so it does not happen again.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Yep, they're called "vote centers."

Had Enough Indy? said...

Jon Easter brought up a good point that I need to clarify here. The 17 year-old ballots were required in all precincts in Primaries where the School Board races were held. Since these elections will now be held in the fall, they no longer trigger the use of the 17 year-old ballots.

However, both parties will hold State Convention Delegate elections. This will affect some precincts when the race has two or more challengers. The other precincts will have half as many ballots. It is not yet clear which delegate races will have multiple candidates.