Mary Kooi (left), founding member of the Johnson County League of Women Voters, talks about voting with Johnson County Clerk Trena McLaughlin (center) and deputy clerk Crystal Siegfred (right) during a voting machine demonstration at the Greenwood Public Library. (Photo/Marilyn Odendahl)


Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

March 19, 2024


Even though Mary Kooi knew exactly what to do when she stepped up to the electronic voting machine to cast her ballot for “best superhero,” she nonetheless happily attended the recent demonstration of Johnson County’s election equipment for a quick refresher before the May primary election.

“I’m passionate about having people vote,” Kooi, founding member of the Johnson County League of Women Voters, explained. “I know a lot of people who don’t vote because they don’t know what to expect. This (demonstration) is ideal.”

The event was hosted by the Greenwood Public Library on March 14. Johnson County Clerk Trena McLaughlin and deputy clerk Crystal Siegfred presented a video that showed how to use the voting machines and then fielded questions from the small group of attendees.

McLaughlin told the group that Johnson County has volunteered to participate in a post-election risk limiting audit. The Voting System Technical Oversight Program at Ball State University will perform the audit, which is designed to verify that the reported election results are correct

“Everything will be all right,” McLaughlin said, “just like on election night.”

On a table behind McLaughlin and Siegfred was one of the voting machines that Johnson County has used since 2019. After the presentation, the attendees were invited to walk up to the device and push the buttons next to their choices among superhero candidates.

Johnson County posted only an 11% turnout for the May 2023 primary, but McLaughlin and Siegfred are expecting many more voters for the November 2024 general election, which includes the presidential race. They pointed to the last presidential election in November 2020, when the county’s turnout jumped to 70%.

Susan Jerger, interlibrary loan librarian for the Greenwood Public Library, organized the voting machine demonstration, because, she said, she wanted Johnson County residents to see how easy voting is and to have them meet the county clerk, so they can know their votes will be properly counted.

The idea for the demonstration came from the local newspaper. Jerger said after reading an article last fall about the Johnson County Clerk’s Office inviting the public to watch as the voting equipment was tested, she wanted to do something similar at the library.

McLaughlin gave each attendee printed materials describing the voting machines and giving step-by-step instructions for casting a ballot on the devices. Also she had a list of the voting locations in Johnson County for the 2024 primary.

The attendees asked questions about voting machines and electronic poll books, provision ballots, voter registration, and the duties of the clerk’s office.

McLaughlin, who has worked in the clerk’s office since 1997, bantered easily with the group. She told them she rose to the chief deputy position and for a long time did not have any interest in running for county clerk. She changed her mind and was elected in 2019, but McLaughlin will be stepping down at the end of her current term since she cannot run a third time.

“I have a wonderful staff,” McLaughlin said. “I could not do my job without my staff.”

Kooi said she was raised in a household that valued voting and would often tag along when her mother would go into the voting booth to cast her ballot. Since she reached voting age, she has been a regular at the polling place on Election Day.

Troubled by the drop in voter participation, Kooi recalled talking to one woman who said the country has so many problems that her vote would not matter.

“I wanted to tell her,” Kooi said, “the problems are going to multiply if people are not taking part in voting.”


Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.

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