County officials aim to reduce primary voting confusion at polls

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With Election Day quickly approaching May 7, Hamilton County election officials want to make sure voters understand how the primary voting process works.

Indiana law states that once a person requests to vote in a primary, he or she may not ask to vote in a different primary, even if the one they first selected does not have any candidates who are opposed. Throughout Hamilton County, most of the contested primary races are between Republicans.

Hamilton County Clerk Kathy Kreag Williams, who also serves on the county’s election board, said that poll workers are trained to ask voters which ballot they’d like, and if they ask to vote in a primary in areas without a contested race they are to tell them there is no ballot and to return in the fall for the general election.

“We have said from the get-go that if a voter asks for a certain ballot and then they want to change their mind, they can’t,” she said, adding that county residents who live outside of city boundaries aren’t eligible to vote in either primary for municipal elections.

But Hamilton County Democratic Party chair Joe Weingarten said he’s hearing another story from some of his poll workers, who told him they were instructed to offer a Republican ballot to voters after they requested to vote in the Democratic primary in uncontested areas. He said that amounts to electioneering, and he raised the issue with the Hamilton County Elections Office. He then asked the Indiana State Election Commission to investigate after the county office didn’t respond in a way he deemed appropriate. The state commission did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

“What I’ve asked the county to do, and this is really easy to fix, is send out an email or put a flyer in the election packages explaining what the rules are,” Weingarten said. “I’m fine with that, but not responding, I’m not fine with. I don’t want to cause a lot of trouble. I just want them to follow the integrity of the elections.”

Williams said she is aware of one instance this year when a Democratic poll worker allowed a voter who asked for a Democratic ballot first to then request a Republican one. She said she spoke with the poll workers on site about how to handle the incident and that she is not aware of it happening elsewhere.

No matter their political affiliations, voters may choose to vote in the Republican or Democrat primary, but that choice determines how their political party is recorded with the state. Weingarten said that’s important because when someone decides to run for office as a Democrat he will check their party affiliation and may need to take extra measures to get the candidate on the ballot if he or she last voted in a Republican primary.

Some Democrats in Hamilton County have opted to vote in the Republican primary because historically there have not been opposed races on their ballot. Weingarten said he believes that’s changing.

“(County Republicans) are very upset that we’re rocking the boat in the county,” he said. “I think in 2020 with national attention coming into the county on the congressional side they may find a few of our candidates actually win.”


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