The numbers keep shifting a bit, but something like 93% of Marion County didn’t vote Tuesday. It was as low or lower in every other municipality of the state. All told, it was one of the lowest recorded voter turnouts in Indiana in about 25 years.
This is fascinating to me. I didn’t vote, either, for a few reasons:
1. I’m not partisan and have routinely voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians on a slew of offices from local up to the federal level. Indiana’s closed primary doesn’t seem to let me vote.
2. I follow this stuff pretty closely and I didn’t even know who was running. The names are practically interchangeable and I don’t know anything about any of the candidates. Local media isn’t covering it, at least not that I can find, and there’s nothing for me to make an informed decision about.
3. It’s obvious the party has their preferred candidate in most elections and that’s that. Joe Hogsett was slated as the Democratic favorite for Indianapolis Mayor and Chuck Brewer for the Republicans and they both won handily. The other individuals running received so few votes they’re almost within margin-of-error territory.
Given that we don’t have an open primary election, we have to stop wondering why voters don’t turnout. the parties don’t ever promote all their candidates, and the local media wasn’t doing much of a job (at least here in Marion County).
This whole system doesn’t work for us anymore, and it’s broken. There’s a lot of talk about moving the primary or just having the parties slate their candidate and be done with it. There’s value in that, at least from a public funding standpoint. It cost about $15 a vote in some Lafayette races to hold the election.
Lack of caring from the candidates
I recognize that the candidates have a lot to do in addition to their regular day jobs. But there have been times I’ve emailed people, like Zach Adamson, who’s at-large City-County Council seat was removed by the Indiana Legislature (which is another reason local seats don’t matter, when the Legislature can just walk all over everything).
It doesn’t change the fact that candidates have been completely unresponsive.
A bigger problem
The parties are a bit like a mob, choosing their anointed ones and favored individuals. A regularly unheard-of smart person couldn’t just up and run and be very successful. It can happen, but once you hit the scale of Indianapolis, it becomes almost impossible.
I’ve long toyed with the idea of running for an office, but I’m not sure what I’d run for. If I ran for City-County Council, I face a ridiculously well-funded Republican opponent. He’d have to have a sex scandal or something to lose.
If I ran for State Representative I again face a tough challenge, but my would-be opponent is actually pretty solid, so I see no reason to run because I wouldn’t differentiate much.
If I ran for State Senate I’d be running against a woman who has been a Senator for longer than I’ve been alive. Which in itself is reason enough to run, but to mount a credible campaign it would require at least $75,000. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t convince enough people to give me $75,000 for a random Senate district.
And it’s because the parties “don’t hand out support lightly” (their words, not mine). How do you get support? Get in line, work the system, and presumably raise a lot of money.
That’s probably a feature, not a bug.