Rejection of satellite voting stirs frustration


Monroe County Election Board members Jim Fielder, Jan Ellis and Judith Smith-Ille discuss their vote on using satellite voting on the IU campus Wednesday at the Justice Building. Fielder and Ellis voted in favor of the measure, which would have installed voting sites before the election in a style similar to the 2008 presidential election. Smith-Ille voted nay, arguing that the sites were not worth the expense given that it is not a presidential-election year. Alex Farris Buy Photos

Every seat was full and several had to stand in the back of a small courtroom at the Bloomington Justice Building Wednesday. Many of them were in support of a proposal for satellite voting this October, but they would  soon be disappointed.

The Monroe County Election Board met to publicly decide the fate of satellite voting in the highly anticipated November elections.

“Voting is really where the wheel hits the ground,” said Chaim Julian, chairman of Democracy for Monroe County. “That’s where the citizens are really able to make their voices heard. We really need to make it as accessible as we can.”

The members of Students for Access to Voting Early (SAVE) clustered around the hallway outside the courtroom before the meeting, reviewing facts and speeches. They wanted to make voting more accessible and keep students politically involved, said Jennifer Pike, an IU senior and member of SAVE.

In 2008 there were three satellite voting locations in Monroe County where voters could vote 29 days prior to election day. These locations were Sherwood Oaks Christian Church, the IU-Bloomington campus and Ellettsville, Ind., said Rick Dietz, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party.

In 2008, more than 4,400 people voted at the satellite locations, Dietz said. Without satellite voting, many worry that student and community involvement would drop dramatically.

Students and members of the community were invited to speak to the board before
the vote.

Kelly Smith, an IU senior and member of SAVE, presented a petition signed by 250 students in favor of satellite voting.

“Having voter accessibilityis giving students a voice,” Smith said. “Student engagement begins that first time you vote.”

However, Justin Kingsolver, president of the IU College Republicans, expressed his concern with satellite voting in a previous interview. The spirit of voting is that everyone votes at the same time, under the same circumstances, Kingsolver said.

“We can get our supporters to the polls on election day,” Kingsolver said. “It takes longer for the Democrats to localize.”

Dietz said before the meeting that he was unsure of which way the vote would go.
“There seems to be a concerted effort to block this kind of voting by the Republicans,” Dietz said. “I don’t know if that will be the case here; I hope it won’t.”

Jan Ellis, chairwoman of the Monroe County Election Board, reminded those present that the Monroe County Council had already authorized $12,000 to fund satellite voting.

“I move that satellite voting sites be established like those in 2008. Three sites, three days, and one of them on campus somewhere, another on the south side and another in a more outlying location,” Ellis said.

After listening to the public for about 40 minutes, Jim Fielder and Jan Ellis voted in favor of the proposal, but Judith Smith-Ille’s nay vote prevented the unanimous vote needed to pass the motion.

“I don’t see how people cannot vote,” Smith-Ille said. “It’s not something we need to worry about in August of 2010. My answer, it’s nay.”

Ellis argued that one member’s vote should not be enough to deny students and citizens voting accessibility.

“You’re just going to have to accept my vote,” Smith-Ille said.

Ellis requested that this issue be brought up at the board’s next meeting.
For now, however, supporters of the proposal are disappointed.

Lorraine Farrell, a Bloomington resident who spoke to the board in favor of the proposal, said, “It’s very disappointing. Nationally, we have very little percentage of people voting. The easier we make it, the better.”

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