Indiana Daily Student

House bill considering extending polling hours in Indiana sparks hesitation

<p>An early voting sign hangs April 4, 2019, at Monroe County Election Central. A new Indiana bill would extend voting hours to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.</p><p><br/></p>

An early voting sign hangs April 4, 2019, at Monroe County Election Central. A new Indiana bill would extend voting hours to 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

A new statehouse bill authored by a Republican representative would extend polling hours by two hours in Indiana, breaking away from the state’s traditional 12-hour voting times.

The bill would extend polling hours from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, as well as making the creation of voting centers easier by making any proposals require majority rather than unanimous agreement from a county election board.

Rep. Timothy Wesco, R-IN, said he wanted to tackle the problem of volunteers being in high demand, and saw the idea of voting centers as a possible solution.

“You got to vote early or you don’t get to vote,” Wesco said.

Vote centers also allow citizens to vote where they are, as opposed to going to a specific precinct area or being restrained in where they can cast their ballot, Wesco said. With vote centers giving more access to voting, counties can close down voting locations and have less need for volunteers. Voter turnout will likely increase, due to voters not being restricted to a specific precinct, Wesco said.

Hal Turner-R, Monroe County election board member, said there will be increased cost concerning pay and moving equipment back and forth, which could result in overtime charges.

Turner also expressed concern for the largely elderly volunteers, and with extending polling hours, the chances for errors increases because poll workers are working longer.

“It becomes an extremely painful day,” Turner said.

Turner said the county has considered switching to voting centers, but it would require extremely careful planning. He said the county would have to make sure no voters are getting disenfranchised and placing voting centers in areas that people couldn’t access.

Come blizzard or floods, Monroe County is no stranger to flexible voting, Turner said. The county dealt with spontaneous changes due to inclement weather on Election Day before, so tackling the adoption of polling hour changes would be taken in stride.

Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne said she doesn’t think the legislation will affect voter turnout. The county offers early voting up to a month before election day and absentee ballots, and the number of people voting through this method only increases every year.

Browne said she has been reaching out to different community groups to get access to more poll workers, but it can be difficult because typically the only people who can dedicate a full day to working the polls are the elderly and students.

“It just creates a much longer day all the way around,” Browne said. “We have a difficult time at this time, trying to get around 344 workers.”

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