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Saturday, April 20
The Indiana Daily Student

city politics

County Clerk's office looking to fill election vacancies by March

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The Monroe County Clerk’s office expects to fill two vacant roles that oversee and support the county’s elections by Board of Election’s next meeting March 7.    

During the Feb. 1 meeting of the Monroe County Election Board, county clerk Nicole Browne told John Fernandez and Judith Benckart – who serve with Browne on the board — she plans to make an offer to candidates interested in the roles of election supervisor and chief deputy clerk before the board’s next meeting on March 7.  

The county’s election supervisor is responsible for overseeing election operations and registration activities. Karen Wheeler resigned as election supervisor in February 2023 after serving in the role for eight years. While resigning, Wheeler referenced the challenges her department faced when running elections, such as when more than 6,600 ballots were reported late in November 2022, which led to two recounts.  

The role was then vacant from Feb. 3 to May 8, 2023, before Jessica Brown assumed the role from May 8 to June 16, 2023. The election supervisor role was vacant again from June 16 to Aug. 14, 2023. Last August, Ryan Herndon took on the role, but resigned Jan. 11, 2024. The application for election supervisor closed Jan. 24. 

Kylie Moreland, Deputy Clerk for the Monroe County Clerk’s Office, said in an email the responsibilities of the election supervisor frequently change and that those in the position are often expected to take on many tasks with low resources and compensation. Moreland said that until there are more changes to address this disparity, election supervisor positions across the country will likely continue to experience turnover. 

“Coupled with increasing, and often extreme scrutiny at both the local and the national level, incumbents in the role have to be more mindful of their well-being and personal safety in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities,” Moreland said. “When opportunities arise to make more money and less stress, the talent will follow.”  

The county chief deputy clerk, which has been vacant since former chief deputy clerk Tressia Martin resigned in July 2023, helps oversee and administer elections and sometimes fills in for the county clerk. 

The League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County sent a letter to Browne, the Monroe County Board of Commissioners and the Monroe County Council on Jan. 25 to express their concern that the county does not have adequate staff and knowledge to conduct the 2024 primary and general elections.  

LWV of Bloomington-Monroe County Spokesperson Debora Shaw said the non-partisan organization decided to send the letter to urge county officials to take immediate action to address the vacancies.  

“Our interest in all of this is to make sure that our elections are the best possible–that they’re free and open and fair,” Shaw said. “That everybody has confidence that if they’re running for office they’re being treated fairly and if they’re voting in this election they’re being treated fairly, and they have every opportunity to vote.” 

Shaw said that the LWV of Bloomington-Monroe County feels that having a full staff and confident people serving in these roles is vital to running a successful election, particularly during a presidential election year.  

In their letter, the LWV of Bloomington-Monroe County said “public confidence in the election will likely be tested” and election staff will need to support a large number of voters and candidates in “a potentially fraught atmosphere.”  

Shaw said that while she has not heard any Monroe County residents express a lack of trust towards local election proceedings, she thinks there may be pressure from outside the local community to question the election’s validity.  

“Everybody hears on the national news people on both sides saying this is an important election and talking about concerns about election validity,” Shaw said. “The concern is that it's not from within the county, but from outside there are going to be pressures on people to say this election is not reliable.”  

Shaw said Monroe County uses paper ballots during its elections.  

“Several years ago, the League of Women Voters was one of the groups pushing to get paper ballots,” Shaw said. “I think that they are a very reliable form of voting and maybe part of the reason that we don’t have a lot of concern in our county.” 

According to a July 2023 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study, 44% of the American public has a great deal or quite a bit of confidence that the votes in the 2024 presidential election will be counted accurately, while 55% stated they had a moderate, little or no confidence. In this study, Republican expressed less confidence in the U.S. voting systems and more concern about voter fraud than Democratic.   Additionally, Democratic expressed they were more concerned about gerrymandering and voter suppression. 

Following the 2020 presidential election, former President Donald Trump falsely blamed his loss to President Joe Biden on election fraud — claims which have been repeatedly rejected by state courts. In August 2023, Trump was charged with four felony counts related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, including pushing false claims of widespread voter fraud.  

Moreland also said the responsibilities and pressures associated with running an election have significantly changed since 2020 as national voters express concerns about election integrity and voter fraud. 

“Elections have absolutely changed and no two words explain how drastic the change has been better than Jan. 6,” Moreland said. “Those who are immersed in election work continue to commit to free the fair access to the ballot, and their dedication and service remain steadfast and unparalleled.” 

To register to vote or check your voter registration visit Indiana's voter portal.  

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