Voting primer 

Doris Anne Sadler explains the process

Doris Anne Sadler explains the process

Doris Anne Sadler, the Republican clerk of the Circuit Court, is in charge of running elections in Marion County. This is a big responsibility at any time, but this year, with a close general election expected and added scrutiny in light of the Florida recount debacle in 2000, Sadler’s job has become a flash point. “This will be the largest election Marion County has ever seen in its history in terms of numbers,” she says. “We have a hot presidential race, a hot gubernatorial race and more registered voters than we’ve ever had.”

But Sadler would still like to see everyone who is eligible to vote get registered and participate in the election on Nov. 2. She recently sat down with NUVO to explain what every eligible voter needs to know.

NUVO: What is the current status of electronic voting in Marion County?

Sadler: Marion County will still be using the same voting machines we used in the last three elections, which are optical scan machines. It’s a paper ballot that the voter fills in the oval and runs through a machine. We had intended to add another component for the disabled, which is a touch screen machine that reads the ballot to the disabled if they’re blind. That particular component is not yet certified through the state election commission. So although we intended to use it this fall, we can’t yet. We will be using just the optical scan machine.

NUVO: The machines we will be using leave a paper trail.

Sadler: That’s correct … Right now I think Marion County is sitting in the best place it can be using these optical scanning machines because of the paper trail.

NUVO: How does absentee voting work?

Sadler: The first step is to get an application for voting absentee. You can do that by phoning the office and we’ll mail one out. You can also come in and pick one up. Once that application is filled out and sent back — in fact we already have 3,000 applications back in — the moment voter registration closes we will send an absentee ballot to all the people who have applied. By that time there will probably be 10,000 people who have sent us applications. It will take us a little while to get up to speed to get them printed but these folks will get their ballots. Once they receive them in the mail, they fill out their ballot. It comes with an envelope that they put the ballot in and mail it back to us. It’s not opened and counted until Election Day and it is actually sent to the polling place where the person would have voted.

The other way to absentee vote is to walk into the City-County Building, fill out the application right there, get the ballot and put it in the envelope. You do it all in person, in one place.

NUVO: When should people expect to receive their absentee ballots?

Sadler: We will mail them Oct. 4, so they should get them in the mail around the 5th or 6th.

NUVO: What should people expect when they arrive at a polling place?

Sadler: In Indiana we allow people to campaign 50 feet outside of a polling place. That’s usually the first thing a person will see is someone in a T-shirt handing out literature. Once you get past that and go into the polling place you may encounter a Challenge Table. Either political party can have this table set up with a poll list and ask what your name is and look on the polling list for you. They may challenge a person if they think you don’t live there. By law they have the authority to do that.

Once you go past the Challenge Table, you walk up to the Clerk’s Table. That’s really the first step in the voting process. The clerk is going to ask your name and address to verify where you live. And for first-time, mail-in registered voters, the clerk is going to ask for identification — it could be a utility bill or bank statement — with a current address on it. They are not allowed to ask for identification from any other voter. But they will ask for a voter identification number and that number can be the last four digits of your social security card number, your driver’s license number or a state-issued identification number.

The voter may not want to give it and you don’t have to; there’s no requirement. But the courts are required to ask. It does cause some people concern. But it’s an identification number, not I.D.

Then you’re going to sign the polling book next to your name and you will be handed a ballot.

For this particular election I think we’ll be able to provide a voting sleeve for the ballot if the voter chooses, or is worried about privacy. Then you’re going to walk over to a blue voting booth that has a surround on it. You’re going to have as long as you want to fill in the ballot. Once you do that, you will walk over to the machine and personally put the ballot through the machine. The ballot can go in any direction the voter wants. Upside-down, backwards, forwards. We’re also going to have shields, for the first time, around the voting machine itself to give voters more privacy.

The machine will tell you if you’ve made a mistake like an over-vote on your ballot. Once the ballot feeds into the machine, the machine will beep and it’ll say across a screen: “Over-vote on the governor’s race. Do you wish to accept or reject?” The voter can then decide to have the machine take the ballot and not count any votes for the governor’s race. Or, if the voter wishes to start over again, the ballot will come back out, the voter will take it back to the Clerk’s Table and get a new ballot. This is an opportunity to repair mistakes before the ballot goes in.

NUVO: How do people know you’re a first-time voter?

Sadler: It’s actually marked by their name in the poll book. It will indicate that they have not shown I.D. If they’ve already mailed in a copy of their driver’s license, that indication will be there.

NUVO: How did the Challenge Tables come to be?

Sadler: I think to understand that you have to understand the political history of Indiana. The fact is that the political parties in Indiana are very strong. Poll watchers are appointed by the political parties. And the same with the ballot layout — it’s party-oriented instead of office-oriented.

NUVO: If someone feels harassed at the polling place, what can they do?

Sadler: The first thing is to appeal to the inspector at the polling place. That inspector is really the manager. That person can handle most issues that arise. They have the manuals and they can look up specific laws. If the person feels the inspector is harassing them or not being helpful they can always call the Election Board at 327-VOTE.

Another thing that’s helpful is the Provisional Ballot. If there is a dispute about whether someone is registered and we go through all the fail-safes, that person can vote a Provisional Ballot, which is kept aside. The next day the County Election Board examines each one on an individual basis and makes a determination whether that person voted appropriately.

NUVO: Do you have enough volunteers to work this election?

Sadler: We need poll workers desperately. We have 914 precincts in Marion County. A full board in each precinct requires five workers. We need people from both Republican and Democrat parties. Unfortunately, it’s limited to Republicans and Democrats, again, because of that political party control. I, personally, don’t care which side you volunteer — we have to have both sides to run the election. Call our office and we will send volunteers to the appropriate party headquarters to get signed up to work.

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