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Porter County needs more room for voters — or does it?

Updated: December 25, 2012 6:18AM



VALPARAISO — Porter County’s Voter Registration Office is crunched for space, particularly during hectic presidential elections, and representatives from that office approached the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday looking for solutions.

“It is Christmas,” noted a hopeful Sundae Schoon, the office’s Republican director.

But neither Santa Claus nor the commissioners may be able to grant the staff’s wishes, which are twofold: Room to store the county’s voting machines in a place where they are easily accessible and can be charged before routine maintenance, and space for additional employees to handle the election workload.

The county had 75,000 registered voters in 1992, a year or two before the administration building on Indiana Avenue opened, said Kathy Kozuszek, the office’s Democratic director, and that number stands at 115,000 now.

The office, in the basement of the administration building, was too small to handle the volume of early voters during the recent election, even with satellite voting centers in Chesterton and Portage, Kozuszek said.

“If we had more space, we would have the opportunity to have more absentees,” Schoon said of the early voters, noting the line stretched to the coroner’s office and there was no place for those in line to sit.

More room, she said, might provide for additional voting booths so the line wouldn’t be so long. The space also could ease training for poll workers, Kozuszek said.

“The space request for staff for 30 days every four years — it’s hard to rationalize that expense,” said Commissioners President John Evans, R-North.

While the lack of space is of greatest concern during presidential elections, which drive higher voter turnout, the office still handles regularly scheduled elections three of every four years, Schoon said, noting two special elections, for the Union Township and Porter Township school corporations, are in the works for the coming year, an off year for regular elections.

Evans suggested more satellite voting centers, which might bring down the number of people coming to the administration building to cast early ballots. He said commissioners would look at the matter, but the greater concern is storage.

Having more space for the voting machines would reduce maintenance costs, said Patrick Lyp, the Republican representative on the county’s election board, because there would be more room to charge them efficiently for maintenance.

“It’s a work in progress,” Evans said, “but I’m going to guarantee we’ll work on storage for those machines before we work on space for your office.”



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