The Noble County Council voted 7-0 Monday to approve using vote centers, rather than precinct polling places as in the past. The council’s vote was the last hurdle the proposal needed to clear to become a reality.
But it didn’t clear without discussion of where the centers should be located — an issue that has cropped up repeatedly in connection with the plan approved last month by the Noble County Board of Elections.
Under the plan, vote centers will be in Kendallville, Ligonier, Avilla, Albion, Rome City, Cromwell and Merriam. The scarcity of vote centers in the southern part of the county again came up Monday. Any voter registered in Noble County can cast a ballot at any vote center in the county.
Councilman Jerry Jansen said he would prefer a plan in which a vote center was located in LaOtto, even if that meant moving a vote center out of Avilla.
Jansen was concerned because the only vote center in the county’s southern townships is in Merriam, with all the others in the central and northern parts.
Noble County Clerk Shelley Mawhorter said the vote centers are distributed fairly evenly when going east to west, and that distances from any point in the county to a vote center remain shorter with an Avilla location than a LaOtto site.
“Avilla is more centrally located for the other areas than is LaOtto,” Mawhorter said.
The key to making vote centers work is early voting, Mawhorter said, adding, “We want people to vote early, and we want people to be able to vote early.”
Most counties with vote centers, which usually are open for early voting, have seen a 40-percent increase in early voting and an increase in overall voting, even with fewer locations, Mawhorter said.
The proposal also will save the county money, Mawhorter said. It will save $9,400 in poll worker wages alone, even after including the costs of early voting.