Even longtime voters might notice a change or two when they cast their ballots this fall or wait for results, and the county faces some increased costs.
Wayne County Clerk Debbie Berry outlined the various notable dates and state-mandated changes during election season in a recent IN Focus interview on Whitewater Community Television. The full program can be viewed through WCTV’s Facebook page and YouTube channel or replays on Comcast cable Channel 11.
Although Election Day might still seem far away, Cambridge City, Milton and Richmond residents who want to have their say must register or update their registration by Oct. 10 through the voter registration office in Wayne County Courthouse, or online at indianavoters.com.
Who can vote early
Towns are responsible for the cost of municipal elections instead of Wayne County.
To minimize those expenses for small communities, Cambridge City and Milton residents can vote early at the courthouse (or request a mailed ballot if they meet requirements such as being 65 or older), at a Richmond early vote center, or in person on Election Day. Vote centers won’t be open in Cambridge City or Milton the week before the election.
Two vote centers will be open in Richmond (First Bank Kuhlman Center and First English Lutheran Church) the week before the election. That number will grow on Election Day.
Wayne County residents who didn’t vote last year might not realize that they’ll receive a paper ballot and pen instead of using a computer screen when they walk into a local vote center in 2023.
Counties were required to provide a paper trail of ballots, so new voting equipment was purchased and implemented in 2022.
Explore our 2023 Election Guide to learn about registering to vote, when and where to vote, candidates in contested races, election news articles and additional resources.
Last year, voters began casting a paper ballot, filling in boxes completely with dark ink, and inserting it into a scanner. Those scans went onto a portable storage drive that remained in the machine until Election Day. Inspectors delivered those drives to the clerk’s office for counting on Election Day. Wayne County has never sent voting results online that could be intercepted.
However, state officials have made a few changes to the process of collecting and counting ballots around Indiana this year. They say those efforts will make elections even more secure.
Voters can start casting ballots at Wayne County Courthouse starting Oct. 11 or during seven days of early voting at vote centers before Election Day.
Because all those ballots are considered absentee votes, Wayne County must now provide a printed envelope to the voter, who will place their ballot inside. The voter also must sign the envelope at that time, just as they do if they vote absentee via mail.
And, in another change, officials can’t open those early envelopes until 6 a.m. Election Day, potentially slowing the counting process. It will require more poll workers to be judges to scan them. The county’s current scanners only scan one ballot at a time.
Despite having to sign an envelope, perhaps for the first time, Berry said local voters still will be able to cast private ballots as they always have.
“Our election board does that, and so the ballots are taken out of the envelope before they’re unfolded so that they don’t really see it when it’s connected with the envelope,” Berry said.
“We do take them out and separate them completely from the envelope…That’s always been a concern, so we’ve always tried to secure and make sure they were never connected once they got to that table for us to open.”
Because fewer voters typically turn out for municipal elections for town/city council seats and mayors than do for presidential, Congressional and gubernatorial races in 2024, Berry hopes the changes will not have much of an impact on how fast results are processed this year.
Indiana’s clerk association anticipates the signed envelope requirement will pose an even greater challenge in time and expense in 2024, and clerks are encouraging state legislators to change the law next year, Berry said.
If the law remains in place, Berry said Wayne County would need 15 additional scanners in 2024 to accommodate the larger crowds.
Each package including a scanner, reader and box the ballots drop into would cost the county $6,500, unless it purchases a central count scanner, which could count 500 in 2 minutes. She has begun requesting financial assistance for a central scanner from the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.
Wayne County is recruiting potential poll workers to fill the schedule of people staffing the election process. All poll workers at vote centers work in groups of two in bipartisan teams to reduce any concerns about election security.
Those interested must be Wayne County residents and at least 18 years old, though some exceptions are available for interested 16 and 17 year olds. Training and pay is provided. For more information and to sign up, call the Clerk’s office at 765-973-9304 or local political party representatives.
Voter roll purging
Berry said voters are put on an inactive list if they haven’t voted in two consecutive general elections, and then after another year or so, they’re taken off the list.
If new voters sign up in Indiana who already were registered in another state, the clerk’s office contacts that state to let them know they’ve approved a new registration, and that state takes them off their rolls immediately. Likewise, Wayne County also purges voters immediately if they’re contacted by another state.
Berry said Wayne County officials contacted the state election officials for advice regarding how they should list independent Richmond mayoral candidate David Carpenter, who is known by some locally for his appearances in a Batman costume, on the ballot. They were referred to the election code showing that if candidates have a nickname they go by, they can use that on the ballot, even if it’s a copyrighted name.
Election-related programs on WCTV
WCTV will air candidate forums featuring candidates in contested races. The schedule:
Oct. 5: Richmond Common Council at-large candidates
Oct. 12: Richmond mayor candidates
Oct. 19: Richmond Common Council Districts 2 and 5 candidates
The candidates for Cambridge City district race and Milton at-large council race episode that aired Sept. 28 can be replayed on demand through WCTV’s Facebook page or YouTube channel or watched on WCTV.
An election night special will air at 6 p.m. Nov. 7. Candidates will gather for live results coverage recorded at Indiana University East’s Whitewater Hall.
Voters who are confined to their home or care facility, or their caregivers, can request a bipartisan traveling board visit their home or an absentee ballot via mail. They can make arrangements for that by calling 765-973-9304 or going online at co.wayne.in.us/clerk. Requests for a mailed ballot must be received by 11:59 p.m. Oct. 26. Voters must request a traveling board by noon Nov. 6.
A version of this article appeared in the October 4 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.