ANDERSON – Beginning this week, the first step in opening vote centers in Madison County will take place.

A goal of Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt for several months has been to open vote centers in the county by the May primary election.

The concept is to allow a registered voter in the county to cast a ballot at any of the vote centers. For example, a registered voter from Elwood who works in Anderson could vote at a center in the county seat.

Pratt is starting the process of putting together a study committee beginning on Wednesday.

“I’ve been pushing for vote centers for the past nine months,” Pratt said on Thursday. “I want a study committee to look at vote centers.”

Pratt is assembling a variety of people – some not entrenched in the political process – that would include community leaders to get a number of different perspectives.

The subcommittee would consist of up to 15 people.

“I want to be pro-active,” she said. “I’m trying my best to get it pushed through.”

By law, counties with vote centers must have at least one center for every 10,000 active voters, Pratt said.

She said that would mean Madison County would have seven or eight.

“We would start with at least 25 voting centers,” Pratt said. “That number would be reduced as we determined which locations the public were using.”

She said Madison County would have to purchase electronic poll books for the vote centers, but some of the current books could be refurbished.

“This would save the county money,” Pratt said. “There would be few precinct workers.”

She said most people are in support of opening vote centers in the county.

Pratt hopes that vote centers would allow more people to cast ballots in future elections.

Last year Madison County purchased new voting machines that provide a paper ballot.

The county is leasing the machines for 10 years at a cost of $976,995 with the first payment starting in 2021.

The new machines replaced those purchased in 2006.

According to the Indiana Vote Center website, 40 of the 92 counties currently use vote centers during election cycles.

In Central Indiana, that includes Hancock, Hendricks, Henry, Howard and Marion counties.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.