Voting sites still being considered

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Revisions need unanimous election-board approval

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - Perry County commissioners tabled again a recommendation from the county election board to further reduce the number of voting locations in the county.

As The News reported Jan. 7, the three-member board recommended cutting in half the number of polling sites, saying workers to staff them are difficult to find. They realized after that meeting the Eagles Bluff visitor center could serve as the Tobin Township site, and included that change in their recommendation when they discussed it at the latest commissioners meeting Jan. 20.

Commissioner Jody Fortwendel told them he'd received advice from the county attorney after the Jan. 7 meeting that a voting location can be moved out of a precinct if no handicap-accessible location is available within it. That situation exists at a Rocky Point site, the board reported at the Jan. 7 meeting.

Further advice from county attorney Chris Goffinet, Fortwendel said, included, "the county election board had to vote unanimously to do this."

"We weren't aware we needed to do that," County Clerk Jean Schulthise told the commissioners." She said Friday she thought a majority decision would suffice. There was some disagreement, she said, in the plan proposed by herself, Pat Crawford and Mary Kay Elder, who comprise the election board. She added that she will consult with commissioners before taking a revised recommendation to them.

Fortwendel said Goffinet also advised any approved plan would expire Dec. 31.

"In other words, we would have to do this every time we have an election," he said. He added, however, the statute wasn't clear.

"Legally, because it's not in the books, we don't even have to send those," Crawford said she was told by the state election board. "We feel that they need to be sent this time out of courtesy to the voters. But if you're not going to change the polling places the next time ... we wouldn't need to send anything out."

Of the current 21 sites, "you are actually moving only five places in Tell City and three places in the county," she said. One difference would be at the county garage, where one polling site with seven workers would replace four with five workers each. Clark Township voters have traditionally been divided into two precincts voting at the same location, and would be combined to halve the number of workers to five.

The election board and commissioners agreed to reconsider the issue at a commissioners meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 1. Crawford said the delay will allow time to check with the county park and recreation board to ensure Eagles Bluff can be used.

Fortwendel asked how polling-site inspectors will be selected under the revised plan. He noted the Democrat party is currently in the majority, and therefore gets to select them, but wanted to know how that will be done when combining sites.

"They'll have to get together and decide that themselves," Crawford responded. "We have no control over who they pick."

Fortwendel said while he'd like to see people be able to vote in the locations they're used to, "it doesn't make much sense to have four separate boards at the county highway garage," for example. "Same for Bristow and Clark Township ... it doesn't make sense to have two boards there." If the Cannelton Public Library, county garage and Clark Township recommendations were approved, he said, "that would be eight precincts combined into three "and we'd do away with five boards."

Tell City's Precinct 2, whose voters were going to the fire station on Humboldt Street, has to be moved because it doesn't meet handicap-accessibility requirements and is up for sale, Crawford said.

"I don't think it's going to make that much difference for the Tell City people," she said. "I mean, what are they going to do, drive two more blocks?"

Commissioner Bill Amos said he has been receiving complaints from people who don't want to move.

"I've got nothing but, 'boy, am I glad you're doing that,' " Crawford said. "I've gotten a lot of calls on it, too. Any time you change anything, you're going to get some complaints."

In other business, the commissioners reappointed Louis Heitkemper, Pam Krygielka and Margaret Evrard to three-year terms on the Perry County Redevelopment authority. One-year terms on the county's redevelopment commission were also renewed for Paul Malone, Marvin Rogier, Bernard Hermann and Jerry Hoagland. As did the others, Don Sherry's one-year term on a common construction wage committee expired Dec. 31. He, too, was approved for continued service.

Amos volunteered and was approved as delegate to the Perry County Development Corp. annual dinner, for which invitations were to go out soon, County Administrator Teresa Kanneberg said.

Commissioners also approved a software-license agreement with MicroVote General Corp. of Indianapolis, a final inspection report for stimulus-money-funded work performed on French Ridge and Leopold-Mount Pleasant roads, and the extension to April 30 of an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service for work being performed on Apricot Road.

The commissioners' next meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. today.