ANDERSON — A lack of a quorum at a called special meeting of the Madison County Commissioners has stopped the attempt to implement vote centers in the county.
Commissioner John Richwine called the special meeting for Monday evening to discuss vote centers, but late in the day County Attorney Jonathan Hughes sent out an email stating because of prior commitments there would not be a quorum.
Richwine said he was going to attend the meeting and allow anyone to speak on becoming a vote center county.
Commissioners Kelly Gaskill and Mike Phipps notified Hughes they would not be in attendance. Both were at the Madison County Government Center, but didn’t attend an Election Board meeting earlier Monday.
The Madison County Council and the Madison County Election Board have both approved becoming a vote center county.
The proposal would have established 28 vote centers around the county instead of voting in 111 precincts starting with the 2020 primary.
But the commissioners have to adopt a resolution by the March 5 deadline to report to the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office.
Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt said if the vote centers were not approved, the county will have to spend an estimated $850,000 on additional paper ballot voting machines.
“I’m not opposed to another special meeting,” Richwine said. “This should have been voted on already. The county council approved funding for the new voting machines last year for vote centers in 2020.”
Pratt said earlier in the day that leasing the necessary voting machines would cost $550,000.
“This is not good for the voters and taxpayers,” Pratt said.
Pratt said she has to contact Election Systems & Software by Tuesday on the leasing or purchasing of additional paper ballot voting machines.
“We will have to consolidate precincts,” she said.
Phipps said in a text message to The Herald Bulletin that he supports early voting.
“Plus an expansion to vote centers once a plan exists that isn’t rushed, haphazard, nor in the thick of a contested presidential primary,” he said. “The election board failed to follow many of the recommended steps outlined by the Indiana Secretary of State, altogether skipping the formation of a study committee comprised of citizens, certain elected officials, and IT specialists.”
Phipps said the election board makeup has been chaotic over the past few weeks, with six different appointees filling the three board seats.
Pratt said that throughout 2019 the Election Board consisted of Ludy Watkins, Frank Burrows and herself.
She said Russ Willis replaced Burrows as the Republican on the Election Board in January.
Willis was represented on Monday by proxy Dan Dykes, former county administrator.
“Giving many of us serious concerns about their stability to pull off a normal election, let alone one with added complexities,” Phipps said.