Ball State's Bowen Center to investigate Indiana's voting systems

Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

May 9, 2008

Ball State University has been selected to conduct a thorough review of Indiana's voting systems in an effort to improve the election process.

During a media briefing on May 8, Indiana's Secretary of State Todd Rokita and Terry King, Ball State's provost and vice president for academic affairs, announced an agreement that the university's Bowen Center for Public Affairs will administer the Voting Systems Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP) for the state of Indiana.

Ball State will use an initial $162,000 grant from the Indiana Secretary of State's office to assist the Indiana Election Commission and Indiana counties with technology issues related to electronic voting systems and evaluate the training of poll workers.

"Ball State is committed to this project," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora. "We look forward to the opportunity to work with the secretary of state and the county clerks across the state in implementing this project."

Ball State was selected for its expertise in multiple areas, Rokita said.

"I am excited to present this grant to Provost King and Ball State University," he said. "The Indiana Election Commission, state and county election officials, and all the citizens in Indiana will benefit from ongoing services provided by this program."

Rokita explained that following the 2000 presidential election states were mandated by the Federal Election Commission to examine their voting mechanisms and put together a plan for improving them.

Under Ball State's proposal, the Office of Indiana Voting Systems will be established, bringing together a team with expertise in elections, computer systems and training.

The project, which is expected to last a year, has three main areas of investigation and recommendation. First, the faculty team, led by Jay Bagga, a computer science professor, will work with county clerks in each of Indiana's 92 counties to create an inventory of voting systems. 

The information will be put into a shared database, providing state officials with a clear overview of all the various machines used across the state.

Second, a team led by Ball State political science professors Joe Losco and Ray Scheele, who is also the Bowen Center's co-director, will investigate the question of how to reliably certify voting machines by examining national standards established by the Federal Election Commission. The team will then make recommendations for changes in existing procedures, state laws, or both to provide a standardized set of criteria for certifying the voting machines.

A team led by Sally Jo Vasicko, a political science professor and Bowen Center co-director, will assess the best practices for training poll workers by examining what procedures are used across the country and how other states are dealing with the issue. At the conclusion of its investigation, the team will make recommendations to the Indiana Secretary of State's office.

In recent months, the Bowen Center has received several grants, including $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. The grant will expand and strengthen Bowen Center programs through which Indiana students and leaders learn to sharpen their skills in political participation and civic engagement. The center also provides professional development opportunities for Indiana state, county and local officials as well as university-based nonpartisan research to help identify current public needs in the Hoosier state.

In January, the Pew Center on the States' Making Voting Work initiative awarded the center $202,600 to examine the use and effectiveness of vote centers. The Bowen Center team is assessing expanded voting facilities established in Wayne and Tippecanoe counties in 2007, examining the impact of the centers on voter turnout, cost, and efficiency on Election Day and public opinion.

"By completing projects like the one we announce today, we not only demonstrate Ball State's value to the state of Indiana, but we also improve the quality of life for all Hoosiers," King said.

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