Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita announced today the results of an examination of potential cost savings associated with using Vote Centers to conduct a special election in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District compared to using traditional precinct-based polling places. Using data from the study Vote Centers and Elections Costs: A study on the Fiscal Impact of Vote Centers in Indiana, released earlier this year by the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute (IFPI), Secretary Rokita’s office found that 3rd Congressional District counties could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars if a separate special election date had been necessary.
“The recent discussion of the cost of a special election in the 3rd Congressional District further illustrates that state legislative leaders need to reconsider permitting all counties the option of implementing Vote Centers,” Secretary Rokita said. “Vote Centers have proven to be efficient in all three pilot counties and in saving taxpayers money no matter the election and no matter how high the voter turnout.”
Using data contained in the IFPI report, as well as budget information reported by each of the counties, Secretary Rokita’s office estimated that it could have cost $850,000 or more to hold a separate special election with traditional precinct-based polling places. Such an election utilizing Vote Centers would have cost roughly 40% less, or $500,000.
Vote Centers are a high-tech alternative to traditional precinct-based elections. Once a county adopts Vote Centers, local election officials replace traditional precincts with multiple centers strategically placed in various locations around a county. Any voter can visit any Vote Center and receive the correct ballot on Election Day. Vote Centers make elections more accessible to everyone. Since any voter can cast their ballot at any vote center location, there is no “wrong precinct” for a person to vote. A voter may choose to cast their ballot at a Vote Center near their work place, or on their way home, which may be much more accessible than their traditional polling place. The use of a centralized electronic poll book ensures election security by preventing double voting.
Under legislative proposals supported by Secretary Rokita, the adoption of Vote Centers would require unanimous, bipartisan approval by a county’s election board.
Counties that form the 3rd Congressional District are Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley, with the largest concentration of voters in Allen County.
According to data from the IFPI study, if the 3rd Congressional District had utilized the Vote Centers model, it would have cost $1.53 per voter (based on a high voter turnout) and $4.46 (low voter turnout) compared to using traditional precinct-based polling places at $2.53 (high voter turnout) and $8.16 (low voter turnout) per voter.
The IFPI study can be found in the Vote Centers section of Secretary Rokita’s web site.
“By permitting them to adopt the Vote Centers option, the Indiana General Assembly could provide Indiana counties operating on tight budgets a crucial tool that would not only save taxpayer dollars, but also show a real commitment to election and local government reform,” said Secretary Rokita.
Vote Centers have been utilized in Indiana since 2007 and are currently allowed in three pilot counties: Cass, Tippecanoe, and Wayne. Vote Centers have generated public and bipartisan support in those three counties and around the state. Without additional action by the Indiana General Assembly, the pilot program will expire at the end of this year. The three counties will be forced to revert to traditional precinct-based elections, and incur additional costs as a result of their backwards movement away from Vote Centers.