Marion County political leaders, elected officials, poll workers and community groups met this week in the Public Assembly Room of the City-County Building to begin the discussion about the future of voting in Indianapolis. Launched in February, the Voter Experience Project is the Marion County Election Board’s effort to listen, deliberate and ultimately decide how and where we will vote in the future. Why are we having this conversation now? Our current fleet of voting equipment is more than 10 years old. Purchased in 2002, the first generation machines are starting to show signs of wear despite a vigorous maintenance schedule. Replacement parts are also becoming more difficult to find. In addition, our software license and maintenance contract expires in 2014, and we don’t know if the software vendor will continue to support their product after next year.
I’m not trying to sound the alarm about our equipment – yet. The technology still has plenty of useful life left and we will continue to conduct fair, safe and secure elections. The Voter Experience Project will allow us to discuss our future needs and gather consensus from our community now to make better, more informed decisions. Like my grandpa used to say: “Fix the roof while the sun is still shining!”
There are currently two kinds of Election Day voting in Indiana: precinct-based and vote centers. In Marion County, we run precinct-based elections, meaning voters go to their home precinct to vote; vote centers mean you can vote anywhere in the county. There are costs and benefits to each, but the voting method chosen by a county is largely driven by the type of voting equipment it uses.