In 2017, I advocated to the Indiana Election Commission and local Election Board to improve early voting and Election Day polling places in La Porte County. Despite these efforts, major defects in the voting system threaten the validity of our elections and the security of our community.
School safety has become a top concern for those across the country and within La Porte County. There should be no barriers to entering a polling place, but there should be barriers for unknowns to enter our public schools, who may come into contact with our children. Sex offenders, who are normally barred from being within 1,000 feet of schools, are permitted to enter polling places, even if they are inside a school building.
Beyond safety, elections can be a chaotic day that disrupts a school’s normal operation. For this reason, La Porte Community School Corporation has removed our public schools as polling places for over a decade; however, Michigan City continues to use public schools for these purposes. Schools should be able to opt-out of being a polling place or removed from the polling list altogether.
Furthermore, 21st century technology connects voters with a wealth of information we could not imagine only a few decades ago. Being able to Google a candidate at the polling place while voting is a right that should be afforded to every American. Increasingly, people are replacing paper notes with electronic. By keeping notes on your phone, it keeps them safe from being ruined or lost, while also avoiding resource waste. Many need help when voting and feel more comfortable with a cell phone to help them make an informed decision. We should afford voters the opportunity when voting early to use their cell phones.
Polling places should not be intimidating. A voter should not feel intimidated by the need to pass through metal detectors. We need to search for new places to conduct early voting. Higher voter turnout is something we wish to obtain. Finding more accessible locations for both early voting and current polling places would help achieve this goal.
This is not a Republican or Democrat problem, but a community issue. In the past, our elected officials have worked with local parties to easily solve problems.
Today, I am sad to see community leaders divided. They need to create the safest and fairest environments for voting. However, doing so at the last minute and without good planning, and between a primary and general election is not a thoughtful decision.
Our elections are one of most sacred functions of a free society. We must always fight to make sure they are fair, open and honest. I have worked hard to ensure that La Porte County elections run smoothly and fairly. Others would like to ignore current problems and continue on with business as usual. These issues may seem minor to some, but we should always strive for better and freer elections. I strongly support ways to improve polling locations in early voting and keep polling places out of schools.
Mitch Feikes is president of Mitch Feikes Builders in La Porte and chairman of the La Porte County Republican Party. Contact him at MFbuilders@comcast.net.