Richmond attorney Amy Noe Dudas spoke during WCTV’s election results show about her role in helping Wayne County Democratic Party on Tuesday as its legal counsel and why a change in the tabulation process means local election results are being released later than usual on Election Night.
Dudas said the party discovered a discrepancy last week between the training the local poll workers receive and the state statute regarding Election Night printouts of vote counts.
She said she thought that party officials had relayed their concern to the county clerk a few days ago that they were going to look for printouts to be made at each vote center on Election Night. They followed up on their request to make sure it would be carried out.
Wayne County Clerk Debra Berry said Tuesday that the process since vote centers were introduced in Wayne County has been that when the vote centers close for Election Day, the inspector and judge have brought the equipment to the Voter Registration Office in the courthouse.
Once there, they would run the tapes — in other words, print the results — while simultaneously electronically tabulating the results for posting to the county website for the public and the media.
Dudas said Wayne County Democratic Party chairman Beth Harrick has asked the clerk’s office this fall to have the tapes be run at each vote center, citing Indiana code 3-11-14-30. The code says, “Subject to IC 3-12-2-5, as soon as the polls are closed, the inspector, in the presence of the judges and poll clerks, immediately shall secure each electronic voting system against voting and obtain at least one (1) paper printout of the total votes cast for each candidate and on each public question in that precinct.”
Dudas said they worked with state experts to make sure they had everything together, and also had contacted Wayne County attorney Ron Cross to make sure they weren’t missing something.
She said they learned as polls closed Tuesday that instructions had been relayed to inspectors to print the counts at vote centers while allowing watchers for each party to be there.
However, Dudas said some of the vote center personnel had to work through some challenges since they weren’t used to making printouts from their machines on site.
That prompted a delay in election workers packing the voting equipment and the printouts from each center and delivering it to the courthouse, where it is reassembled for the vote count.
While some Richmond vote centers are just minutes from the courthouse, a longer travel time from Hagerstown, Cambridge City, Fountain City and Centerville must be factored in as well.
Votes cast Tuesday at each of the eight vote centers are combined with those cast at each early vote center that was open last week, and the courthouse in the weeks leading up to the election.
They also are combined with the higher number of absentee paper ballots and sent via mail this year, for the final total.
Results from First Baptist Church, just more than a dozen blocks from the courthouse and a vote center that was described throughout the day as moving very quickly, were the first to arrive at the courthouse at about 7:30 p.m.
Centerville Christian Church came in at 7:59 p.m.; Hagerstown’s New Testament Church at 8:23 p.m.; LifeSpring North near Fountain City at 8:25 p.m.; with First English Lutheran Church in Richmond and Golay Community Center in Cambridge City coming in before Kuhlman at 8:50 p.m.
The last printouts and equipment arrived at the courthouse at about 8:50 p.m. from Kuhlman Center.
The printouts from each vote center are to show the number of votes for each candidate from each of Wayne County’s 30-plus precincts, Dudas said.
Dudas said the intent of the statute is to make sure the vote count from each vote center matches up with the count at the courthouse, thus preserving the integrity of the election. She said the statute has been on the books since electronic voting began.
Indiana began allowing all counties the vote center option in 2011, but Wayne, Tippecanoe and Cass counties were the pilot team. Wayne County did its first vote center election in May 2008.
The Democrats’ concern about following the state statute developed this year after they learned about a difference in the training that poll workers receive compared to materials for poll watchers.
Dudas said the state has allowed each party to have a watcher at each vote center in previous years, but traditionally, neither party has appointed watchers. Dudas said this year, Wayne County Democratic Party decided to appoint watchers.
Watchers can observe and report any concerns about individual voter registrations that develop at the vote centers to make sure they are resolved.
If it’s discovered that someone is facing a question about their registration, watchers intend to make sure that poll workers point the voter in the right direction to make sure they are indeed registered and able to vote in an eligible location.
A local Democrat who had planned to be a poll worker but then was not needed had already gone through training for that role and noticed a discrepancy between materials for poll workers and watchers about the printouts and brought that to the attention of Wayne County Democratic Party officials, Dudas said.
Report from Rachel Sheeley and Millicent Martin Emery. Find more updates at hmgccity.com as they become available.