For voters, county maps were a source of confusion (IN)
WSBT News1. November 4, 2009. By John Paul
Confusion played a role in Tuesday’s special election. Maps provided by the county that marked election polling places were a big reason why. (WSBT photo)
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY ¯ Higher voter turnout wasn't the only surprise during Tuesday's special election. The location to cast ballots was another for some voters.
St. Joseph County provided a map to help voters find their special election polling place. The information was on WSBT.com as well.
In the hours that followed, emails and phone calls flooded our newsroom from voters who said they were turned away and sent to another location to vote.
Officials with St. Joseph County Voter Registration said the special election was put together quickly. Commissioners also wanted to keep costs low.
Overall, Linda Sillcot called it a success. But, she admitted there were some hiccups ¯ Higher than expected voter turnout was one of the issues.
On Tuesday's ballot, there was one simple question, with one simple answer, but the process for voters like Wayne McFarland was anything but simple.
"We were supposed to go down to the York Road Fire Department, but our registration didn't get over there," said McFarland.
Confusion played another role in the special election. Maps provided by the county that marked special election polling places were a big reason why.
McFarland assumed voters in the large shaded area on the Centre-Green Township maps were set to vote on Kern road. A big black dot was placed on the page, and it was literally less than two miles from McFarland's home. The South Bend resident discovered he was wrong
"They transferred us down to the UAW on Main Street," he said.
A closer look at the map revealed McFarland's neighborhood wasn't shaded at all. It was in a white area surrounded by the darker tone.
"It's just hard to explain those differences unless you work here every day," Sillcot said.
But the map didn't tell McFarland where to go. So, WSBT News asked Silcott and Pam Brunette at voter registration to tell us, while looking at the map.
Both Brunette and Silcott said the white area was an area in the county where there were not homes, but industries and businesses. WSBT News cameras found a well-established housing development.
Other viewers sent emails and mentioned this was a problem in other parts of the county too.
Silcott told WSBT her GIS official would investigate. We went directly to the man himself ¯ John Carlson.
Carlson used a list of existing boundaries. His program consolidated those areas into one polling location. Those locations were created by Saint Joseph County Voter Registration. And the program was easy to use, but with one click it confused a number of voters, because some voters in the white patches had no idea where to go.
Carlson said the frustration will be helpful in helping him fix the problems in the future. He also said the maps were simply used as a reference. A disclaimer on the bottom of the map showed it is not warranted for accuracy.
McFarland did not get an opportunity to cast his vote because the polls closed by the time he arrived at the right location.