ALEXANDRIA, Ind. (WISH) — The Madison County Election Board finished counting votes at 4 a.m. Wednesday, five hours after the last person in the county voted and 10 hours after the closing time for the city’s one voting location.
The county clerk has blamed the county commissioners for not funding the election properly.
Madison County voter Teresa Anderson told News 8 that on most election days she can get in and out during her lunch hour. “I went in this door at approximately 6 o’clock to vote” and waited “six hours and 45 minutes” to cast a ballot.
The Madison County Clerk’s Office had reduced the number of polling locations in Alexandria, a small city just north of Anderson, to just one location. During the last general election, the city had five voting locations and plenty of voting machines at each site.
Anderson said, “There was actually working machines. There were nine machines; two were designated for handicapped people, so that left seven machines for all the other voters.”
When Anderson finished up on Election Night, the line of voters was nearly a quarter-mile long.
Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt said she had a plan approved by the Madison County Council last winter to consolidate existing polling locations into voting centers and add new voting machines.
In Indiana, 46 counties including Madison County require voters to go to specific polling places, while another 46 including Marion County have voting centers. Simply put, a vote center is a polling place where any eligible voter in the county may go to vote. A 2010 study found the vote centers save money and also provide flexibility for election officials and voters. Marion County first allowed vote centers in 2018.
Pratt said, “The council approved the funding in the spring for us to purchase new equipment but some of that money did come from the commissioners budget. They refused to sign off on the contract to let us get the equipment so there is a lot of political elements that factor into this and that’s unfortunate.”
Lee Walls is active in Madison County politics and a member of the same political party as the clerk. Walls says Pratt isn’t telling the whole story. Her plan to streamline the election process coming into a heated presidential election was not supported by the state or Madison County Commissioners.
Walls said, “The commissioners’ vote against the voting centers should be no big deal. We are going to vote just like we always have.”
Pratt cut the number of polling sites in the county in half and replaced 400 older voting machines with 170 new ones.
Walls said, “When she was asked in a commissioners’ meeting if 170 machines were enough, she replied yes. The commissioner asked her what do you need do you need more.”
News 8 received a statement from the Madison County commissioners that says it is clear the number of voting machines needs to be reviewed well before the next election.
The election board could have provided scannable paper ballots earlier in the day to avoid lines.