Mobile voting van returned to county | Local News

Correspondent for the Stan Maddux Times

LAPORTE — A mobile voting unit in LaPorte County is being returned to the authority of local voting officials.

Riding Shotgun/DNR Conservation Officer Tyler Brock

Sheila Matias, President of the LaPorte County Commission, made the decision, which still requires a formal vote by herself and her colleagues.

The commissioners took control of the van from the LaPorte County Election Board in a split vote Aug. 7.

Matias said she will make a motion to return control of the van to the election committee when the three-man commission meets again.

She said this was to avoid spending taxpayer dollars on a lawsuit threatened by LaPorte County Clerk Heather Stevens for control of the van.

Stevens is one of three members on the Electoral Board.

“Stevens wants control? She’s got it,” said Matias.

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Matias said she and Commissioner Rich Mrozinski raised the issue to motivate election officials to put the van into service.

They said they were frustrated because the van was not used to register voters or provide access to ballot-by-mail applications ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

“The clerk heard us loud and clear as to what our goal was. I am now asking the clerk to do the right thing and roll the van to high school festivals, events and parking lots,” Matias said.

The deadline for voting is October 11th.

The van, which the commissioners bought last year with a grant from a nonprofit for $67,000, can also be used for early voting.

Stevens said the van was put into service for the May primary, but acknowledged it could be used more frequently.

She was willing to seek an injunction to return the van to the authority of the Elections Committee, claiming it would be illegal for the commissioners to take control of it.

Stevens feared the commissioners responsible for the van could raise questions about the integrity of the election, especially as Matias is up for re-election this year.

“You have exceeded your authority here. The election committee conducts the elections and the secretary is your chief election officer in each county,” she said.

Commissioner Joe Haney said he supports Matias’ decision, although he questions her motive.

“I think they know they did it illegally. You don’t have the authority to do it. That’s why they withdraw. They knew a lawsuit was brewing,” he said.

Mrozinski said he was also in favor of relinquishing control of it, although no laws have been broken since the inspectors have ownership of the van.

“This is our van. We do what we want with it,” he said.