Secretary of State Pushes for Vote Center in Columbus

Secretary of State Connie Lawson met with a couple dozen county-level officials from around the state in Columbus on Monday to discuss the ins and outs of a vote centers, which have been proposed in Bartholomew County and elsewhere.

Lawson is pushing a polling system based on vote centers she says would consolidate and centralize voting locations at sites capable of accommodating up to 10,000 voters apiece on Election Day. Current precincts, under state law, limit the number of voters in each one to between 1,200 and 1,400 people.

Voters are not assigned to particular polling locations in vote center counties – they can vote anywhere, Lawson’s proposal would also do away with paper ballots, in favor of computers that tally votes and transmit them by high-speed internet.

“This is a way to reduce locations, reduce the number of poll workers needed, reduce the expenses as it relates to poll workers like meals, to reduce the number of voting equipment, the amount of storage space that they need,” she says. “Lots of different efficiencies that the counties might find. And lets face it—counties are looking for every dollar that they can right now.”

Morgan County Clerk Stephanie Elliott, says vote centers would be convenient for busy voters on election days.

“I anticipate that they will be as excited as we are. I mean I kind of just think if there was a way where we could get one maybe by one of the Walmart’s or where there’s lots of shopping,” she says. “You know someone that’s out and about, rather than have to take off work or you know change their schedule for the day to vote. They could just vote where they’re at.”

A number of counties have rejected vote centers thus far because of political squabbling, worries about the security of electronic voting or a desire to implement them only after the 2012 presidential election was complete.

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INPA Announces 2012 College Photographer of the Year

IU journalism senior Chet Strange was named 2012 College Photographer of the Year at the Indiana News Photographers Association’s annual photography contest Feb. 22-23 at Ernie Pyle Hall.

Strange took home the top prize in the categories for news and sports, nearly making a clean sweep of the competition in the event Friday afternoon. But it was his winning entry for the contest’s portfolio division that earned him the title of College Photographer of the Year.

“It’s a really cool feeling. There were a lot of really good portfolios,” Strange said after winning. “It feels really cool to be first in that group.”

His portfolio covered a wide array of shots, from vibrant images of 5K runners covered in colored dye at a “color party” in Indianapolis, to austere gray scale shots of women in group homes.

Sharing the canvas of his portfolio were a range of characters, such as IndyCar driver Scott Dixon during Carb Day last May, Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in September, IU basketball’s Cody Zeller during a pep rally in October, and even an Abraham Lincoln impersonator showing off photos of his grandchild on his smartphone at a Danville Civil War heritage festival last summer.

Winning the No. 1 spot in the photography contest’s features division was IU journalism junior Mark Felix, who impressed the judges with his photo depicting first grade students receiving etiquette training last May at the historic Thomas Duncan Community Hall in Lafayette.

And a number of other students rounded out the runners-up positions in the contest. Overall CPoY runner-up Darryl Smith earned second place in portfolios; Taylor Irby and Steph Langan were runners-up in features; Ryan Dorgan, BAJ’12, was runner up in news; and Clayton Moore was runner up in sports.

In total, 88 photos and eight portfolios were submitted for review in the contest, but the judges wasted no time in weeding out submissions that did not meet their standards.

“The best photos had both content and good design,” said Pam Spaulding, a retired (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal photographer who served as a judge for the competition. What she was looking for were photos that not only told a good story with their content, but also effectively communicated that story to the audience via their overall composition.

Russell Yip, photo editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Sally Ryan, a freelance photographer in Chicago, were the other two professional standing on the judging panel. Each was allowed one vote per photo projected on tandem drop-down screens in the auditorium in Ernie Pyle Hall. Using hand-held remotes, they clicked “for” or “against” a photo, while Indiana News Photographers Association president Matt Detrich read aloud the cumulative score of their votes to the quiet audience.

“In,” he said for photos that made the cut moving on to another round of review.

“Out,” he said for those that didn’t.

Organized by Detrich and AJ Mast, contest chair for the event, the INPA’s College Photographer of the Year contest is an annual competition in which college and university students from across Indiana submit their best photos each year.

After the competition, judges and other professionals gave one-on-one reviews with students, discussing what they could have improved and giving other pointers.

But the weekend event was not just for college students. It also was a chance for the pros to show off their work. Friday night the judges took to the stage, presenting some of their work and discussing the stories they captured over the past year.

And Saturday, the INPA hosted a competition for its Photographer of the Year, a contest to determine the best photos and portfolios contributed by those within the association’s professional ranks.

Dave Weatherwax, chief photographer at The Herald, a small family-owned newspaper in Jasper, took home first place, earning the title of Photographer of the Year, for his all-black-and-white portfolio of residents of Jasper and the surrounding area. Matt Detrich, INPA president and photographer for the Indianapolis Star, was runner up.

The INPA weekend event has been annual tradition for nearly 40 years, and this was the third year for the IU School of Journalism to host the event. Associate professor Jim Kelly organizes the event at the school.

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National Weather Services Cuts Public Storm Training Classes

With the snowfall and chilly temperatures throughout much of central Indiana today, it may not seem like it, but spring is just around the corner. And with spring comes tornado season.

However, the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service has had to cancel roughly a third of its 39 Skywarn storm spotters training courses offered to residents of central Indiana.

Budget constraints have forced the office to allocate only one regional training course per two or more counties, says Dave Tucek, morning coordination meteorologist with the service’s Indianapolis office.

“The changes have been made just because we have some limitations on our travel budget,” Tucek says. “And as a result of that, what we’ve decided to do to accomplish something along those lines is to combine several counties together into a single talk as opposed to making the trip to each and every county each and every year,” he says.

“It’s a way in which we can save a little bit of government dollars while still getting the training information out there,” Tucek adds.

The National Weather Service’s annual Skywarn storm spotters training program has for years been a valuable training and educational resource for Hoosiers. They attend the courses for preparedness training and education on how to differentiate tornadoes from other storm clouds that frequent Indiana skies during the spring and summer months.

Roger Axe, the director of emergency management in Greene County, says the courses not only help participants prepare for threatening storms, but they also keep them from confusing distinct and less threatening storm clouds like scud clouds with actual tornadoes and calling the authorities.

“One of the main things that the spotters courses have done is they have taught people what the difference is between what a tornado is and what it is not, so that they don’t have to fly off the handle and be scared that they can precisely identify what a tornado is or a funnel cloud,” he says.

Axe hosted the Skywarn course for residents at the county fairgrounds before it was cancelled. He says he understands budget cuts may be inescapable, but he says it is also going to come at a serious cost.

“The impact is very simple. Not everybody has the ability to travel to the regional spotters courses, and not everybody is going to be able to get the free education that the spotters courses have provided,” says Axe.

The cancellation of half of the Skywarn training programs comes at a time when interest in storm preparedness is especially high. It was only a year ago that Henryville and Marysville were devastated by tornadoes on a day in which at least 80 twisters swept across the United States from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the cancellation of the course this year in Green County, Axe is hopeful that the National Weather Service’s budget is back on track next year.

“We just hope that things can work out that we can get the spotters courses back on a more local level, because it’s been beneficial for all of us,” Axe says. “I go every year, because I learn something new every year.”

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Tom Crean Reflects on Hoosiers’ Success and Challenges Ahead

The Indiana Hoosiers’ performance Sat. night was far from pretty. But the victory against the Iowa Hawkeyes earned IU at least a share of the 2013 Big Ten Championship, bringing the program one step closer to its first outright title victory since 1993.

IU Head Coach Tom Crean told reporters Monday morning that his team is excited yet reserved, acknowledging the challenges still ahead for the Hoosiers.

“They were excited, but within minutes they went right back to work inside of practice. And it’s kind of a microcosm of the way this whole year has gone,” Crean says. “They’ve really been locked into the moment, into what’s moment important, which is getting better. And like I said we’re excited to be where we’re at, but we know there’s a lot more things to accomplish,” he says.

Should IU prove victorious in this year’s Big Ten Tournament late this month, it will be the Hoosiers’ first title win in two decades. Crean says it’s taken the team a long time to get back to its current level of success. So, he says, the success should be enjoyed, but not be taken for granted.

“Because when you lose it, it’s so hard to get it back, and you’ve got to work that much harder to get it back,” he says. “And I think the same thing our fans need to really look at is that there’s a ton of excitement around it right now. Let’s remember where we were. Let’s not take any of it for granted. Let’s keep building on what’s been happening,” he says.

The Hoosiers are ranked number one in NCAA standings, and are currently 25-4 overall and 13-3 in Big Ten play. IU takes on Ohio State Tuesday at Assembly Hall and will finish up the regular season in Ann Arbor against Michigan on Sunday.

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