Sundae Schoon, the Republican director in Porter County’s voter registration office, started worrying about how the county’s midterm general election was being handled in late September. “There was such an influx of (requests for) absentee ballots coming in,” she said, adding there were only two people in Clerk Karen Martin’s office to handle them. By the Saturday before the Nov. 6 election, her concerns grew deeper, because the suitcases for precinct inspectors weren’t ready to be picked up. Many inspectors pick up the supplies that day if they can’t get them the day before the election. She began to wonder. “If that’s not ready, what else isn’t?” she said, adding she called David Bengs, president of the election board, about the suitcases and he directed her to do whatever needed to be done to get them ready.
That was just one of many problems county and party officials said preceded an Election Day that became a whirlwind of chaos, as poll workers couldn’t get into polls, two court hearings were held to keep late-opening polls open, and poll workers waited long hours for absentee ballots that had never been sorted to arrive.
The ensuring few days brought an effort to count the 18,562 absentee ballots; a protest in front of the county administration building with demands for votes to be counted; calls for an assortment of investigations into how the election was handled, including to the FBI; and a three-day wait for preliminary election results that was capped with calls for Martin, a Republican, to resign for her mishandling of the election. She refused.
Officials attribute the breakdown in the county’s electoral process to a number of factors, including reassurances from Martin that her office could handle the election, a lack of communication with the election board, and an election that was wanting in one of its most basic of needs – workers to answer calls, handle absentee ballots, and usher voters through the polls.