Voter accessibility has been the hot topic for the Monroe County Election Board this fall, and partisan views continue to generate heated debates.
Satellite voting sites were shot down by the board in three separate meetings, and the new topic for debate is an extension of hours to vote early in the Curry Building.
One of the reasons the board rejected satellite voting sites was because voters can vote early in the Curry Building at 238 W. Seventh St.
The Curry Building is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will also be open until 8 p.m. on Oct. 8 and from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
The board has recently discussed extending these hours to evenings and weekends.
Democrat Jan Ellis, election board chairwoman, said the current hours make it difficult for those with 9-to-5 jobs to vote early.
Republican Jim Fielder, also an election board member, said he wanted to wait to see the turnout of the extended hours on Oct. 8 before deciding whether to extend hours regularly.
“It’s hard to understand not setting evening voting hours from the beginning,” said Rick Dietz, Monroe County Democratic Party chairman in a press release. “Indiana is widely recognized as having some of the most restrictive election day voting hours in the nation.”
Republican Steve Hogan, Indiana House of Representatives candidate for District 60, criticized Democrats for using voter accessibility debates for political gain.
He said Republicans are by no means against voter accessibility and want a good turnout as much as Democrats.
He said there are many opportunities to vote early and on election day.
Justin Kingsolver, IU College Republicans president and IDS columnist, agreed with this during the last debate of satellite voting sites. He said that he has registered 200 voters for November.
But Ellis criticized Republicans for limiting accessibility. She said rejecting satellite sites and extended hours will reduce the number of voters.
“They say they want to provide voter access, but they are not doing it,” Ellis said referring to Republicans. “They are actually refusing to take measures that would.”
Dietz said this issue should not be sparking the same level of partisan debate that satellite voting did.
He said board members do not need a test to determine whether extended hours would be an efficient change and that Fielder, who also serves as Monroe County clerk, should extend the hours now.
“It’s time to cut through the Tea Party rancor and do what’s best for Monroe County,” Dietz said. “If we can’t do that with satellite voting. ...then at least we should have regular evening hours for early voting.”
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