Most Johnson County voters said their votes are being accurately counted despite conspiracy theories and national reports of concern.

Conspiracy theories have spread online and in forums across the country since people began attacking voting equipment and making false claims of widespread voter fraud after the 2020 election. These theories have undermined public confidence in voting machines and election results, while leading some counties to consider ditching the equipment in favor of hand-marked and hand-counted ballots, The Associated Press reported.

While programming errors sometimes occur and equipment can malfunction, no major problems were reported during the local primary election in May. Voting equipment is tested before and after to identify any problems, while audits are done after the election to confirm it worked correctly.

The Daily Journal spoke with about 10 voters at vote centers across Johnson County to ask them about their thoughts on the election process on Tuesday. Here’s what they said.

Some voters trust process fully

For White River Township resident Kara Austin, voting this year was important for the sake of democracy.

“I don’t think the country is headed in the right direction. And democracy means a lot to me, and the right to vote,” she said.

Austin felt that the election process had been fair, and didn’t have any concerns about security or other issues locally, she said.

“I saw the line and thought, ‘Oh no.’ But then I decided that I needed to go. I needed to stand up for what I feel is important,” she said.

Greenwood resident Alex Braden also felt democracy was on the ballot, mainly because of how polarized the country has become in the last eight years.

“I think democracy could be at risk, so I wanted to make sure that I do my part,” Braden said.

David Patrick, who voted at the Clark Pleasant Library branch in Whiteland, said he’s always had confidence in the election.

“I had confidence in the last election. It was other people that kind of turned it upside down. I’m not saying any names,” Patrick said.

Greenwood resident Meg Gray thinks the election process was fair and secure because voters’ identities are being checked and confirmed before they cast ballots. She also felt that she wasn’t being persuaded to vote one way or the other, she said.

“On my ballot, all my (candidates) were showing on my screen,” she said. “I looked and I did my research before I came in, and I made sure that those candidates were still there when I came in.”

Others more concerned

Other voters the Daily Journal spoke with at the polls expressed concerns about the process and mail-in voting.

Whiteland resident Russell Crage said he would like to see mail-in voting removed as an option unless people truly have no other way to go to the polls in person.

“I don’t like mail-in voting. I think people should come in person,” he said.

Crage said he felt secure casting his vote at the Clark Pleasant Branch Library in Whiteland.

Greenwood resident Dorothy Woods said she felt confident voting at the Greenwood Public Library on Tuesday, though she doesn’t think the process is as secure in other places. However, if officials go through mail-in ballots and see if they belong to a legitimate person or address, she was OK with that, she said.

Matthew Earley, a Franklin College student, was not 100% confident in the process, he said. There are ways to make the process more efficient and secure, though he’s not sure which method would be best. Addressing mail-in voting is an option, he said.

“Making people come out and vote as opposed to mail-in voting is more secure,” Earley said.

James “Kenny” Hood and his wife, Delores, both of Franklin, both said they didn’t like using the voting machines because they felt their votes could be changed later. They both prayed that God would watch over the machines and that votes will come out correctly.

Local and state election officials say it is not possible for votes on the machines to be changed once a voter casts their ballot.

Elections are ‘fair,’ ‘secure’

Earlier this year, concerned citizen’s group expressed concerns about how Johnson County residents voted in 2020, but election officials emphasized the county’s systems are secure.

The Johnson County Voter Registration office had been receiving many public records requests for Vote Cast Records, also known as Cast Vote Records, including from Indiana First Action. The record lists a person’s voting history for a particular election.

Indiana First Action is a grassroots citizen group whose mission is to ensure that Indiana’s elections “represent the will of Hoosiers.” The group, which was formed in July 2021, uses “evidentiary analysis” to “discover the truth” about Indiana’s elections, according to the group’s website.

Along with members of Indiana First Action, at least one other individual has come into the county’s voter registration office asking for a copy of these records. However, the county cannot give out that information, as it is considered by the county’s election vendor, MicroVote, along with the state of Indiana as confidential, Johnson County Clerk Trena McLaughlin told the county’s election board earlier this year.

Earlier this summer, McLaughlin, members of the county’s voter registration office, along with a clerk from Knox County, took part in an hour-and-a-half meeting with Indiana First Action where members of the group expressed concerns about how elections are run with voting machines. The group believed voters should use paper ballots instead, she said.

Members of the group also expressed concerns about the VVPAT, or voter-verified paper audit trail, systems the county uses. These machines print off a receipt that shows how a person voted onto the voting machine and may show the person’s vote record, but members of the group told McLaughlin they were concerned that the vote was not actually being logged onto the machine, she said.

The records are being logged onto the machine, and all VVPAT records are kept by the county, McLaughlin said.

During an August election board meeting, officials emphasized they wanted to be as open as they can. For example, they are keeping records from the 2020 election until the end of 2023, longer than the state statute of 22 months, because of a request from the group.

“I think we all want to let the public know that our elections are fair,” she said. “There was nothing illegal with them, so I don’t have a problem keeping those records. … I feel like I can let them know that our elections are secure and we will do everything we can to help them.”

Daily Journal reporters Andy Bell-Baltaci and Ryan Trares, along with multimedia news editor Emily Ketterer contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed.