Anticipating big crowd in November

When you head out to vote this fall, expect more vote centers to be open, and for more poll workers to check you in when casting your ballot.

With the nearly 40 percent voter turnout in the primary election — a record high in the past 20 years — Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec expects the general election to be even busier, she said. She is already looking ahead to November, and ways to ensure voters can get in and out faster on election day.

They are learning from what worked well, including doubling their staff at some of the busiest vote centers.

And they are planning some tweaks to try to address some of the issues that slowed down the lines Tuesday, Misiniec said.

At some vote centers, including Mount Auburn United Methodist Church, dozens of people waited in line to check in, while only two or three residents were voting. While voting takes only a minute or two on the machines, some sites did not have enough poll workers to check people in quickly, while others did not have enough to pull up the right ballot on each machine, Misiniec said.

This fall, Misiniec wants to double the amount of staff at more vote centers, on top of Mount Auburn, Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria, Greenwood Christian Church and Grace United Methodist Church, since it was so successful Tuesday, she said.

And at least four more vote centers will be added to the current roster of polling sites, Misiniec said.

Others could also change locations, since some vote centers are too small or do not have adequate parking for Election Day, including the Clark-Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library, Misiniec said. For example, Grace Assembly of God church in New Whiteland has offered to house a vote center in the future, and that may be a more convenient spot for voters to park and head inside, Misiniec said.

But changing vote centers is always a concern, since that could confuse voters who consistently head to the same polling site for every election, she said.

Another change that will be coming: new or updated voting machines. But that is a change that won’t happen until after the general election, Misiniec said.

After this year’s general election, Misiniec wants to purchase new voting machines or upgrade the approximately 400 the county currently owns. The machines were leased in 2008, after all were destroyed in a massive flood the same year, and eventually purchased by the county. But the machines are about 15 years old, since the county was able to get a deal on used machines, Misiniec said.

The touchscreens need to be replaced in the current machines, and that also causes hiccups on election day, Misiniec said.

On Tuesday, county officials were told they could upgrade the existing machines, which would cost considerably less than purchasing new machines. County commissioner Brian Baird and Misiniec have talked about buying new machines, but want to wait until 2017 to make the purchases, since it’s an off year for elections, Baird said.

Misiniec does not have a cost estimate for purchasing new machines or replacing the touchscreens, she said.

In the past, officials thought as few as 250 vote machines would need to be purchased since changing from precincts to vote centers in 2012. But in the primary election on Tuesday, more than 400 machines were spread throughout the 21 vote centers, Misiniec said.

“We may have to purchase more machines so we can adequately serve our voters,” Misiniec said.