Voter turnout difficult to track; county beats average

By CANDY NEAL
Herald Staff Writer

Dubois County’s primary election turnout was 15 percent, which was more than the overall state turnout but less that its own participation rate from the last midterm election four years ago.

In comparison to other counties, that 15 percent falls in about the middle of the list for this year’s primary turnout.

The Indiana Secretary of State released earlier this month a listing of each county’s voter turnout as well as absentee voting. In Dubois County, 4,538 of the 30,029 eligible voters cast a ballot.

“It was a little less than I had expected,” said Gary Eck, chairman of the county’s Democratic Party. “I had been anticipating about 20 percent or so.”

Don Hayes, chairman of the county’s Republican party, said the 15 percent is deceiving.

“Starting with the National Voter Rights Act of 1990, keeping the voter lists current has been very difficult. The law made removing a voter from the roll very difficult,” he said. “When we mail to voters off an official voter list, we get many, many letters back as undeliverable. Some are deceased voters, but most are voters who have moved, many out of county or state.”

That means, according to Hayes, there are people listed on the county’s eligible voters list who may not actually be in this county anymore.

The Secretary of State office is working to clean up and update the voter files so the number of people eligible to vote in a county is accurate. That program is ongoing.

Although the county’s percentage may have been a victim of a bloated voters list, it would also have been bloated four years ago, the last time a midterm election was held. In the 2010 primary, 27 percent of Dubois County’s voters cast a ballot.

The number of contested races were different then. In 2010, Democratic and Republican voters each chose candidates in four races. This year, Republican voters made decisions in four races while a segment of Democrats voted in two races, depending on if they lived in the county council’s third district or in Marion Township.

“We were pleased that nearly 2,500 people voted in the Republican primary,” Hayes said. “This number is the highest in several elections.” He added that about 1,700 voters chose a Democratic ballot.

Eck said that because of the limited contested races on the county’s Democratic ticket “many Democratic voters did not exercise their right to vote.”

Statewide 13 percent of eligible voters went to the polls in the primary. Of the counties surrounding Dubois, Martin County had the highest turnout at 28 percent. Next were Crawford and Daviess, each at 27 percent. The others were Orange and Spencer counties at 25 percent, Pike County at 17 percent, Perry County at 12 percent and Warrick County at 11 percent.

The highest turnout percentage in the state was 36 percent in Sullivan County south of Terre Haute. The lowest was in Vanderburgh County and St. Joseph County (South Bend), each with 6 percent.

Eck and Hayes are working to fill the open spots on their party’s ballot. They have until June 30. In addition, seven seats on three of county’s four school district board will be on the fall ballot. Filing for those seats will open Aug. 6.

Voters will have more races on which they will choose a candidate for different school board, county, state and national positions.

“Don’t complain if you don’t vote,” Hayes said. “If you don’t participate (by voting or volunteering to help your party), you will have no input into the process of governing. Just as it is our duty to serve our nation in the armed services if called, it is our duty as a citizen to vote and volunteer.”

“Even when the choices on the ballot are limited, there is a statement to be made,” Eck said. “That statement is that as a citizen who has been blessed with this right to vote by the deeds of current and past generations, I am committed to stay engaged with the election process as a method of improving our government. What better way than to make the small effort of casting a ballot?”

Contact Candy Neal at cneal@dcherald.com.




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