St. Joseph County adding two new voting centers
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Walkerton and Lakeville voters may have an easier time getting to the polls for Election Day than they did for Indiana's primary. That's because the St. Joseph County Election Board voted Tuesday to open a new voting center in each town. Concerned voters had urged them to do so after a primary that saw voters having difficulty making it to their polling centers.
"We didn't have a Walkerton or North Liberty polling place in our primary election." said Walkerton voter Robin Risner. "To me, that's voter suppression"
Risner said the people being hurt most by Walkerton and Lakeville's lack of voting centers were the elderly.
"A lot of our elderly residents in that community, I think, did miss out on polling due to travelling restrictions or just not knowing where they could go," Risner said. "We need to make sure that we are taking care of our elderly residents and making sure that they're not dealing with any voter suppression"
Risner accused the St. Joseph County Election Board of not caring about the southern part of the county. Board Chair Catherine Fanello refuted that accusation.
"I think it is unfair to say that the southern part of the county is not important," Fanello said. "I do think that is unfair."
As a result, the board voted to open two new voting centers in Walkerton and Lakeville, bringing the total number of polling places in St. Joseph County to 42, but Fanello urged caution in rushing to those polling places on Election Day.
"I would encourage (voters) to use the two other options we have for voting," Fanello said. "We have a total of three options to vote in Indiana. We have absentee by mail, absentee in person which begins October 6th in the lobbies of the County City Building or the County Services Building in Mishawaka or you can show up on Election Day."
Fanello said there is still work to be done before the new voting centers can open.
"There's a lot more planning that needs to go into place," Fanello said. "As you heard us discuss, we have to talk about how to train poll workers. We will have almost 700 working on Election Day."
Because of that, Fanello said voters should strongly consider voting by mail or voting early. She said a lot can happen on Election Day that makes voting then not as safe or efficient.
Fanello said that poll workers could not show up last minute which could force election officials to close some polling places, forcing voters to drive longer distances, sit in longer lines and be in more crowded places. Therefore, Robin Risner said the responsibility is now on the community to volunteer.
"We need to make sure that every polling place that's supposed to be open is open," Risner said. "It's as simple as that."
Chairwoman Fanello said people who are still trying to register to vote should not try registering again if they have not gotten their applications back with registration confirmation, saying that will only back up the system. Instead, Fanello said if you are having problems getting your registration approved to call the St. Joseph County Election Board.