Political sparring leaves Valpo with no early-voting site
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 14, 2014 7:38PM
Updated: April 16, 2014 6:15AM
VALPARAISO — The city will not have an early-voting location for the May 6 primary election after members of the Porter County Election Board could not come to a unanimous vote Friday on where in the county administration building the voting should be held.
A large crowd overflowed into the hallway outside a small meeting room for the decision, with folks in the hallway sometimes asking members of the board to speak up so they could be heard.
What drew the large crowd, and heated discussion after the meeting, was that Democrat Kathy Kozuszek is running for city clerk against incumbent Republican Karen Martin and is also the Democratic representative in the voter registration office, where early voting is typically held.
State law dictates separating candidates from where voters cast ballots and also requires a unanimous decision on satellite office locations.
The first location under consideration was Room 307 in the administration building, where Friday’s meeting took place. Election board president David Bengs, a Republican, and Martin voted for that location, but Democrat Katrina Spence, sitting in as a proxy for board member J.J. Stankiewicz, voted against it.
The next location considered was the voter registration office in the building, which Spence supported and Bengs and Martin rejected.
“A candidate cannot be present at a voting location,” Bengs said.
After the meeting, county board of commissioners president John Evans, R-North, and county Democratic chairman Jeffrey Chidester sparred over the merits, or lack thereof, of the two proposed sites for early voting.
Chidester said Room 307 was too small to accommodate early voters, and when Kozuszek was a candidate for the Porter Town Council several years ago, while she worked in the voter registration office, it was not an issue.
“You’re trying to make a problem that doesn’t exist,” he said.
But Evans said the meeting room would work, and would avoid the problem of Kozuszek being at the polling site.
The election board did approve early voting in Chesterton and Portage — at the Chesterton Town Hall, 726 Broadway, and in the former health department offices in the North County Complex, 3560 Willowcreek Road, in Portage.
Voting in those locations will be from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting April 8. Voting also will take place during those hours on the last two Saturdays prior to the election, April 26 and May 3. Early voting closes at noon May 5.