NewsPublic Affairs / November 6, 2018

Tipp. Co. Election Board Won't Extend Hours Despite Early Morning Issues

Article origination WBAA-AM
Tipp. Co. Election Board Won't Extend Hours Despite Early Morning Issues

Some Tippecanoe County voters couldn't use voting machines, because computers were unable to log them in as the polls opened at 6 a.m.

Stan Jastrzebski/WBAA News

Despite issues that kept voters at many Tippecanoe County polling places from voting at 6 a.m. today, the county’s election board has voted not to extend the hours the polls will be open.

“The county election board met this morning and reviewed the information regarding issues at the startup of the day and agreed it was not significant enough that it merited extending voting hours at all locations,” Clerk Christa Coffey says.

Coffey says the issues affected about half of the county’s 18 vote centers, including Federated Church and Morton Center in West Lafayette, as well as Evangelical Covenant Church, Outpost Catering and Fire Station #5 in Lafayette.

Voters tell WBAA the issues lasted most of the first hour the polls were open. But Coffey says that wasn’t enough to justify keeping the polls open later this evening.

“If someone chose to stand in line or to leave a line, there were other options available to them,” Coffey says.

Purdue University political science professor Patricia Boling was one of the people who left the line at Federated Church. She says one reason she did so was that there was little communication to voters about the problem or possible remedies.

“Information was sparse," Boling says. "We were not told, in a straightforward way, ‘well our computers are down, but if you go to [Purdue Memorial Union], you can vote.’ We were not told that.”

Boling says voters often have only a small window of time in their day when they can vote, so delays experienced by early morning voters might mean some people aren’t able to cast ballots on Election Day.

“I think people should be raising hell about this. This is really kind of not a very pro-small-d-democratic decision,” Boling says.

Coffey says voters in line when the polls close at 6 p.m. will be able to have their tallies counted.

Election Board Again Looks The Other Way

It's not the first time this election year when the county's election board has chosen to wave off an issue with the political process.

During the Republican primary for sheriff, when West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski admitted he'd improperly used a cell phone partially paid for by the City of West Lafayette for campaign purposes, the Election Board used procedural sleight-of-hand to avoid addressing the issue, beginning the process of sending it to Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington (also a Republican, like Dombkowski and Election Board Chair Randy Vonderheide) but seeing that vote fail due to the lack of a second from the panel.

At the time, Vonderheide told WBAA: "I have personally some difficulty seeing that it would affect the election. But that’s not my decision to make. I make my decision in the voting booth.”    

Those are the same voting booths which have now seen issues on the day of the general election, and which Vonderheide's group chose not to keep open past 6 p.m.   

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