The Marion County Election Board met earlier today to hear testimony from the political parties, organizations involved in the political process, and the general public on the possibility of continuing satellite voting. Satellite voting differs from voting centers in that satellite voting is for early voting and held county wide, whereas voting centers are county wide centers used on Election Day. The only current in-person method of early voting is voting at the Marion County Clerk's office within the City-County Building.
Thomas John, Chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, was the only speaker who spoke out against satellite voting. John mentioned the disastrous irregularities that occurred during White's first election (I wasn't covering politics at the time, but you can read about the situation here and here), and mentioned several other alleged irregularities that occurred outside of the 2007 primary election. He mentioned the fiscal cost of satellite voting, and mentioned the looming $50 million shortfall in tax revenue the city of Indianapolis is facing. I got the overall impression that he didn't like Clerk White all that much and just flat out didn't trust her. John mentioned that he first bought up satellite voting himself in 2007 as a way to solve the problems presented in that election, but now doesn't. I'll be honest and say his explanation for his flip flop made absolutely no sense to me.
John's Democratic counterpart, Ed Treacy, tried hard to politicize this non-partisan issue even more than John did, and I think he might've succeeded in doing so. Treacy rambled about Mayor Greg Ballard and a lot of other things before I lost interest.
Then the general public got a chance to speak. There was a very diverse crowd ranging from private citizens and several representatives from organizations, including those from the Baptist Ministers Alliance, the Concerned Clergy, and United Auto Workers. Many spoke of their use of satellite voting in prior elections. Some with disabilities noted their difficulties in getting into the City-County building today or in previous attempts to vote. And several citizens expressed that even though they could vote absentee, they want to be able to go to an actual polling place and participate in the process. Seeing your ballot deposited provides a measure of safety that putting into a mailbox doesn't fulfill.
Adam Kirsch, Executive Director of the Marion County Democratic Party, and pundit Abdul Hakim-Shabazz were also there. You can see their thoughts on their respective Twitter accounts here and here.
My thoughts? The precinct system we have set up right now is incredibly broken, but that type of change won't happen between now and November 2. In-person early voting is a great service, and I've personally seen the long lines at the County Clerk's office during general elections. Then think of the difficulty in finding parking in the area of downtown that the City-County Building is in, let alone the time to do all this during normal business hours, and you can see how difficult early voting can be. Satellite voting can ease the burden and make it much easier.
As for the cost, sure, it might cost money, but as a speaker today pointed out, the value of making it easier to vote can't be measured in dollars and cents.
Two more thoughts: Similar to Indy Pride, the Marion County GOP seems to be handing this issue to the Democrats, and the Democrats are using it as a rallying point. Several city-county council members were present at the meeting, including José Evans, Minority Leader Joanne Sanders, Monroe Gray, and my representative Maggie Lewis. Secretary of State candidate Vop Osili was also in attendance, and André Carson gave a big speech about it in a rally yesterday. To oppose an issue quietly and work against it is one thing, but for your party chairman to come out and literally be the only opposition to an issue that an overwhelming majority of the public supports is a monumentally dumb move, and the county GOP should hope that voters don't remember this in the fall. To add insult to injury, I saw much of the media in attendence rush to John after the meeting ended, so not only was he the only opponent of satellite voting at the meeting, but now his views will be put on the evening news as well.
Finally, kudos to WRTV's Norman Cox. While media personalities like Shabazz and The Indianapolis Star's Matthew Tully (who was also present) regularly stay for the entire time a meeting is scheduled for, it's a rarity for that to happen with journalists working in television. Cox and his cameraman stayed the entire time, and because of that, RTV6 will be providing a great public service.