Marion County Clerk Beth White said a bipartisan plan to fund, without tax dollars, two satellite early voting locations for the 2011 Municipal Election.
White provided Mayor Greg Ballard with a donation agreement outlining a commitment of $50,000 in private funds to pay for the costs of two satellite locations, which would be in the city of Southport and Washington Township.
Clerk White and Election Board Chairman Mark Sullivan have endorsed the plan. If Ballard and the local Republican Party agree, the plan can go into effect at the Election Board meeting on Sept. 12.
“I want to publicly thank organized labor, especially United Auto Workers Region 3 Director Mo Davison, for their generous donation so that no public funds will be used to open two additional early voting locations,” White said. “Labor organizations continue their fight to assist working families, retirees and people with disabilities, the very people that benefit from increased access to their right to vote.
“The future of satellite voting is in Mayor Ballard’s hands now. All the mayor needs to do is sign off on the funding agreement and instruct his Republican Election Board member to agree to the satellite voting plan on Monday.”
Southport Mayor Rob Thoman a Republican, and Washington Township Trustee Frank Short, a Democrat, have agreed to open their offices to early voters – Southport City Building located at 6901 Derbyshire Road in Perry Township and the Washington Township Trustee’s office located at 5302 N. Keystone Ave. in the Keystone Plaza shopping center.
The resolution before the Election Board at Monday’s meeting outlines the dates and hours the satellite sites will be open, including 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the two full weekends before Election Day and the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. the week of Oct. 31. Marion County Sheriff John Layton’s deputies will provide security for ballot transportation as contemplated by state law, and both satellite locations will have the full complement of Republican and Democratic workers and Election Board staff to supervise.
“Agreeing to use my office as a satellite voting site was an easy decision,” Trustee Short said. “Why wouldn’t you want to make voting more accessible to the very people who need it – single parents, shift workers and those working two jobs to make ends meet?”
In 2008, the bipartisan Election Board used the Southport location and the J. Everett Light Career Center in Washington Township as satellite early voting locations. These sites were opened for 11 days, and nearly 39,000 early voters cast an absentee ballot between them. In comparison, the downtown Clerk’s office located in the City-County Building was open for 29 days and more than 34,000 voters used the site. In all, Marion County received 93,316 absentee ballots in the 2008 presidential election.
“In 2008, I saw the demand for satellite early voting locations first-hand,” Mayor Thoman said. “Lines of people from all over Marion County were wrapped around our City Building, eager to share the experience with their friends and family. It makes simple sense today that the opportunity to vote is made more accessible for all Marion County residents. The additional sites and the expanded hours eliminate so many obstacles. I look forward to record turn-out in Perry Township.”
Indiana law requires the Election Board to unanimously agree to satellite early voting sites in each election. The first time Marion County used satellite voting was 2002, when former Republican Clerk Sarah Taylor extended early voting into Lawrence Township. Six years later, the Election Board agreed to a two satellite voting sites for the 2008 presidential election. The Board expanded the number of satellite sites from two to three in the 2009 special referendum election. Since 2010, the Marion County Republican Party has refused to agree to a satellite voting plan.
“Mayor Ballard and the local Republican Party were for satellite voting before they were against it, now claiming the cost is too great,” added Clerk White. “I hope the private contribution, the bipartisan locations of the satellite sites and the more than 700 petition signatures will convince the mayor that satellite voting is important and necessary.”
Hoosier voters can cast a ballot on Election Day or absentee – by mail, traveling board or early, in-person. To receive a ballot by mail, voters must provide a reason and submit an application no later than eight days before Election Day. (For this fall’s municipal election, the deadline is midnight, Monday, Oct. 31.) Vote-by-mail ballots must be received by the Election Board on or before Election Day. The traveling board option is only available to voters confined to their home or hospital and their caregivers. A bi-partisan team delivers the person’s ballot to their home and can assist the individual, if requested.
Early voting is the 29-day window before Election Day where people can cast a ballot without a reason. Voters complete an absentee application, present a valid, government-issued photo ID and are given a ballot o complete. Bipartisan teams process and secure the ballots in the presence of voters. Satellite voting is an expansion of the early option, where additional locations are opened closer to where people live, work and take their kids to school.