Vote centers appear to pass muster in first real test

Nov. 8—For the first time in a general election, Daviess County used vote centers on Tuesday. Election officials are calling the change a success.

"It worked very well. Election day went very smoothly," said Daviess County Clerk Lauren Milton.

Milton says the success has her preparing for the much larger elections coming next year.

"I am glad we had this smaller election to use vote centers during our first year, so we can feel out things a little bit better and prepare for next year," she said.

With vote centers people can vote for any office they are qualified to vote for at any of the locations. That is different from precinct voting where a person could only cast a ballot in their home poll.

"I think the use of vote centers will be really positive during the presidential election," said Milton. "It is on a bigger scale than what we did this time around, but many of our processes are exactly the same."

Milton says with a bigger election that will cover the entire county there will be more vote centers in operation on Election Day.

"Since it is a bigger election, we will have more location over the entire county," she said. "We had three polling places this time. We are planning for eight next year and they will be spread out all over the county. The law says you need to have one vote center for every 10,000 voters. We have about 18,000 voters in the county so with eight vote centers I feel pretty comfortable."

Milton says that while vote centers in some areas have resulted in lines, that is something she wants to avoid.

"I did talk to the poll workers at the locations Tuesday to get a feel for what kind of waits there were," she said. "They reported we had a few places where there were people waiting, but with just a one-page ballot it was a short wait. That is one of my concerns is people having to wait to vote. We already know that the election next year will be more than just a one-page ballot. We will have fewer locations but more machines so we should be able to move people through quickly. If that is not the case we will have to make adjustments."

The voter turn-out was a 19.58% of those eligible in the 13 precincts where there were contested races.

"The turn-out was lower than we had hoped for," said Milton. "It's sad."

In Washington, there was a single race on the ballot with incumbent David Rhoads easily defeating challenger Jerry Sidebottom.

Milton questions whether more races would have turned out a greater percentage of voters.

"In Elnora, we had six people running for three seats, but we only had 97 people vote of the 380 registered, so even though we had all those people running, the turnout was still low," said Milton.