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Monday, March 8, 2021

Satellite voting; a must-have for Black community

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Congressman André Carson once said, “If you’re a servant of the people, then you must serve all the people.”

Some of the best ways to serve people is to understand their plight, make them feel as comfortable as possible, and let them know that their opinion matters.

The Marion County Clerk’s Office is trying to effectively serve all people by opening satellite voting sites for the Nov. 2 general election. Like early voting, satellite voting allows individuals the opportunity to cast their vote prior to Election Day. However, satellite voting gives voters the convenience of voting at specific locations unanimously selected by the bi-partisan Election Board. These sites are located in generally political neutral places. Recent sites have been at the J. Everett Light Career Center, Southport Community Center, Devington Plaza, HealthPlex, and Beech Groove.

Here’s a quick history lesson.

The first satellite sites were opened under the leadership of former Republican Marion County Clerk Sarah Taylor for the 2002 primary. In early 2007, Marion County Republican Chair Tom John suggested opening satellite sites and in July of that same year, Marion County Election Board (MCEB) Vice Chairman Frank Otte, also a Republican, offered a resolution to open sites for the 2007 election; however, because funds were not factored into the budget, the resolution was tabled for further discussion.

That discussion reconvened in September of 2008 when the county Election Board unanimously approved two satellite sites to be opened for the presidential election. During that election, more city residents voted at the satellite locations than they did at the clerk’s office.

Fast forward to the present and you’ll find that while current Marion County Clerk Beth White and her staff are trying to offer the public better voting options, they are having some difficulty.

In March, the MCEB failed to reach a consensus on satellite voting for this year’s primarily election. Now, as time withers away, a decision has yet to be made. This is where you come in.

I’m always encouraging the public to advocate for worthy causes, and now is such a time.

On Aug. 17, the Marion County Election Board will hold its next meeting. During that meeting the public is encouraged to provide testimony on the satellite voting issue. I hope a good showing of people will attend the meeting and express their support.

While many people consider satellite voting an option, I’d venture to say it’s a necessity, particularly among African Americans. Within our community are people who have limited transportation, limited time off from work, and limited child care options. For these people, satellite voting is of the utmost importance because the convenient locations and hours make casting votes simpler. Remember what I said previously: effective ways to serve people is to understand their plight, make them feel as comfortable as possible, and let them know that their opinion matters. Satellite voting does all three.

While credit should certainly be given to Republicans for initiating satellite voting in Marion County, many people feel blame should be placed on Republicans if satellite voting isn’t granted this year. Word on the street is that satellite sites aren’t favorable for Republicans and the GOP is worried, especially with key races such as U.S. Senate, secretary of state, and state legislative seats at stake. There are also the very important county races for prosecutor and sheriff to consider.

Clerk Beth White is steadfast in her attempt to offer satellite voting, but time is of the essence. The MCEB needs to approve this measure soon so that White and her team can adequately prepare.

Please plan to attend the Marion County Election Board meeting on Aug. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 260 of the City-County Building, 200 E. Washington St. You can also show your support of opening satellite voting sites by signing an online petition at www.indy.gov/election.

You can e-mail comments to Shannon Williams at ShannonW@indyrecorder.com.

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