The Porter County Board of Elections & Registration unanimously approved the hiring of a new assistant director of elections & registration at its monthly meeting Thursday afternoon. Tara Graf will replace former assistant director Becky Rauch who left in late August.
“She’s an amazing asset to the county and will be fantastic in this role,” said Porter County Clerk and Elections Board Secretary Jessica Bailey by way of introduction.
“Tara, you’ve had nothing but glowing recommendations, so welcome aboard,” said Board Vice President Ethan Lowe.
Graf came directly from the University of Chicago where she was working in social services for the human resources department, but has an employment history with Porter County Government. She worked for the information technology department in 2016 before moving on to work in records and small claims for the Clerk’s Office.
In other business, the board continues to hold candidates accountable for late, incomplete, or erroneous campaign finance reports. Three repeat offenders, Amy Arney, Lance Raphael and Hannah Trueblood, will be given notice to appear Nov. 17 to answer for their reports.
“I think that those individuals that are repeat offenders need to show up,” said Lowe. “I don’t have a problem with that,” said Board Member Jeff Chidester. “I guess the purpose is to let them know we’re serious about it and look us in the eye.”
“During the course of this we’ve made it clear we’re willing to work with you,” Lowe added.
Board President Paul Rausch asked what the board will do if they make that Nov. 17 summons mandatory and the candidates still don’t show up.
Board Attorney Monica Conrad said she’d send out another notice and if they fail to attend the hearing, the candidates’ judgments will automatically be defaulted. Kenard Taylor, executive director of the Porter County Republican Party and a consultant to the Election Board, said only three of the 61 candidates required to file a report have not done so this cycle.
“Actually, there’s more candidates this year that the county board handles than there will be next year in the national elections,” Taylor told the board.
Bailey reported 1,093 people had cast ballots in early voting as of the start of the meeting. Over 700 voters had requested by-mail ballots, with 317 returned so far.
Sundae Schoon, director of Elections & Registration, said the Portage early voting site has been the busiest and her office hopes to add a second vote center in Portage next year.
Construction of the new Chesterton Police Station on the site of the former municipal parking lot has been causing a shortage of parking for the Chesterton Town Hall vote center so Lowe made a point to remind the public that Porter County operates on a vote center model meaning any Porter County resident can vote at any vote center, regardless of where they live.
Poll worker classes begin Monday, with all slots filled for the General Election on Nov. 7. “Everything’s moving along,” Bailey said.
Shelley Jones is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.