In Indiana, There’s a Reason For Low Turnout

Indiana’s Civic Health is poor. A number of studies and media reports confirm that–among other “civic deficits,” Hoosier election turnout is among the lowest of any of the states. As the linked article notes,

Indiana ranks among the lowest states in the country in civic participation. Groups from across the state met at the Indiana Civics Summit this week and hope to work together to boost civic engagement and increase voter turnout.

Much of the discussion at the summit was framed around the results of this year’s 2023 Indiana Civic Health Index. The report measures civic health by analyzing data about voting and voter registration, social and community connectedness, and civic awareness and action.

Indiana ranks close to last in the country in several categories measured by the report, especially those related to voting. Bill Moreau of the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation said these data points are a big problem.

“The civic health of Indiana is really pretty poor. Let’s just say it,” he said.

Moreau added that the report most recently listed Indiana as one of the states with the lowest voter turnout during midterm election years. The report compared Indiana to the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.

“This report, which is based upon 2022 election returns, has us ranked 50th for turnout,” Moreau said. “But we’re not last. Thank goodness for West Virginia, or we would be.”

Count me among the voices that have routinely echoed into the wilderness of civic indifference, begging students and readers to “do their duty” and cast their votes. But deep down, I’ve understood the truth of what the editor of the Indiana Capital Chronicle recently wrote–the reason so many Hoosiers don’t bother to go to the polls is because their votes really don’t count.
I’ve previously posted about an unsettling exchange some years back with a graduate student in my Law and Policy class. He was one of my best students, and he’d displayed a civic temperament and real interest in policy. I’d been exhorting students in the class to vote in an upcoming election, and he raised his hand. When I called on him, he explained that he’d recently moved to a bedroom community, had gone online to check his polling place, then looked at the ballot. There were zero competitive races–he’d confronted a Soviet-like ballot showing a single candidate for each position. He asked “Professor, why should I bother to vote?”
I had no answer.
As Oseye Boyd wrote in the Capital Chronicle, 

The cold, hard truth is sometimes your vote doesn’t matter — or that’s how it feels.

It’s not just voter suppression efforts such as gerrymandering where cracking and packing diminish voices and feed apathy, but it’s also gatekeeping by political parties that creates few choices, making it harder for voters to see why they should care.

Boyd referenced–among other elements of Hoosier undemocratic processes–“the change in state law that raises the bar to prove party affiliation has made it more difficult for newcomers such as Graves to break into politics and challenge the incumbent.”

Before 2022, you only had to vote in one recent primary to prove your party affiliation. Now, a potential candidates’ two most recent primary votes have to match the party they wish to represent. If you don’t meet this requirement, county party chairs can allow you to run by issuing a waiver. “Can” being the operative word. Without clear guidelines on waiver issuance, the decision is left to the whims of party chairs in each county, creating a hodgepodge of reasons for approving or denying waivers….

Now, only five of the 23 Marion County legislative races in the upcoming primary are competitive. That’s it. Five. The incumbents in the other 18 districts will win no matter what. Let’s be real, races without competition are boring and uninspiring. Candidates bring out their A game when there’s competition. Our political system should encourage public service not discourage it by creating arbitrary obstacles…

We can’t keep chastising those who don’t vote without acknowledging there’s a system that seems to only want a few people participating.

Don’t believe me? Look at the number of people who voted in Marion County’s last two primaries; it’s quite sad. In 2023, 12.74% or 79,156 people out of 621,384 registered voters cast a ballot. In 2022, 10.78% or 73,086 people voted in that primary. The number of registered voters was 678,067.

It’s impossible to dispute her contention that the way to get more people to vote is to give them something to vote for. 


  1. Regarding voting, it’s up to the political parties to put forth a slate of candidates worth voting for in the primary and general elections. Like Sheila, I’ve been harping about this for years for different reasons. This year is a perfect example where you’ve got a corrupt criminal versus #GenocideJoe.

    After watching our state police take down students and professors yesterday on Twitter as a response to Israel’s Prime Minister (a criminal and alleged international war criminal) call to cease and desist, the only candidate worthy of my vote is Green Candidate Jill Stein. She’s the only one with a consistent anti-war message and is not a Zionist, even though she is Jewish.

    Indiana University joined the encampment protests, and there is a picture on Twitter of a sniper on the roof of the Memorial Coliseum overlooking the students protesting. That would be the State Police or National Guard. That’s Indiana!

    What I saw at Emory University and the University of Texas makes my blood boil. We’ve gone way down the wrong path when students start protesting at school less than a month from graduation.

  2. Todd; your Jill Stein Green Party, vote will accomplish the same thing the over SEVEN MILLION votes for Stein and Johnson’s Libertarian party votes did…throw the election to the states and the Electoral Colleges in 2016. Trump’s currently personal and family controlled RNC will again move all votes to Trump at the 2024 convention as they did in 2016. I watched the full RNC Roll Call as all candidate numbers were immediately switched to Trump for all 50 states and 5 territories. Rudy Giuliani began three days prior to the election announcing they had the presidential election “sewn up” in the states; he was ignored and here we are.

  3. The sudden and virulent reaction to the Israel Gaza situation makes me wonder if there aren’t foreign influences whipping up fervor on social media. It seems likely given the recent and extreme escalation. So stop and think Todd.

    My wife looked at the current Democratic Ballot for our Marion County district and it makes no difference if she votes or not.

    When I used to consider myself a Republican, I used to vote in the Democratic primary because in my Democratic district the primary was only place I really could influence what was happening in the fall. No longer. Gatekeeping now has my state representative down to a single choice of a dead person.

    I am once again, after many years, going to vote Republican in this primary to influence the republican federal senate candidate choice.

  4. Eliminate the box on the ballot where you can check “all R’s or all D’s” – make people see the names. It is just wrong that Banks has no opponent due to the rule about voting. What the Indiana Republicans did to keep his opponent off the ballot infuriated me as a voter. The Republicans supported Banks from the beginning and did not even give their own party members a choice. wrong.
    Why is there a record of whether I ask for a D or R ballot? Isn’t my vote anonymous? Supposedly, there is no “party registration affiliation” but by default there is one when you ask for a D or R ballot because there are consequences. Also, why can’t you change your opinion? I am concerned about low voter knowledge -do people know who their state legislators are? do they even know the issues? The local TV news is abysmal when it comes to the acts of the state legislation unless there is something smarmy going on with a legislator. The online Chronicle is excellent – what what is the readership and why don’t the Star pick up their deeper dive into the political scene? Turning more specifically to the question of low voter turnout – I would like to see demographically where the low turnout is for every election – then organizations interested in voter turnout need to help solve the problem – don’t leave it to just D or R; however, the Dems could use some more energy in educating those R’s who like to check the box at the bottom of the ballot without even considering how a D might serve the voter better

  5. On the D side, to have any relevance, the organization must start at the top, the state, level, but the energy must start at the county level. It would take a six year, and perhaps eight, plan. It could be done, and younger women impacted by Dobbs might be the spark….even in Indiana.

  6. One party rule for a state sounds great if you personally benefit from that party’s policies. But over time that form of governance leads to some terrible unintended consequences.
    Out in Idaho that state’s draconian abortion laws have driven nearly 30% of their OBGYNs out of practice and leaving that state. Florida’s anti-woke laws are saddling their own college grads with dubious credentials. Indiana is putting the finishing touches on its “environment be damn” policies that are paving over and developing the riches soil in the world. (Just how many empty warehouses along the interstate do we need?)
    Once the damage is done, the road to recovery is generations long; if recovery is possible at all.

  7. Jill Stein SEEMS to be nothing but a Russian apparatchik, even if she does not see it that way.
    Bill, I like your optimism. The GOPIGGERS may have really started something for the long term good with their abortion “victory.”

  8. If you disagree — The You’re A Russian Agent retort is getting old and tired. If that’s all you have… you have nothing.

    A vote for Biden IS a vote for ethnic cleansing. The mask is off. We know what you are when you support ethnic cleansing.

    It’s 1968!

    1968 v2.0

    Biden is Johnson and Nixon. Dorian Gray?

    You are living in interesting times.

  9. It’s interesting that the numbers of registered voter lowered significantly between 2022 and 2023. Did Indy lose over 56,000 people or did too many people just allow themselves to be removed from the voter rolls?

  10. Having watched US House elections closely for the last seven years, there is a simple formula working.

    STEP 1 – gerrymander the districts so there are few competitive races between the parties. There were about 60 in 2018 and 2020. After the 2020 census and a lot of “Big G”, in 2022 there were fewer than 30. This year, the number is closer to 20! Yes, out of 535 seats.

    MIX – the power of incumbency – 92% of US House incumbents who ran in 2022 were reelected.

    ADD “play party games” – when there is an open seat in a DEM district, there are often 5 or more candidates competing, getting a lot of party attention and raising money. When there is a seat in a GOP district where a DEM starts off with longshot, but not impossible chance, the party mostly ignores the race. Ask Adam Frisch, who came within 500 votes of taking out Lauren Boebert in 2022.

    ADD “play ideology games” – in many cases, when the DEMs have a shot at an open seat with a GOP advantage, the hardcore “progressives” come out and win the primary. In 2020, there were 21 of these; in 20/21 the “progressive” lost the general election by a larger margin than a more moderate DEM in the exact same district in BOTH 2018 and 2016.

  11. It’s easy to assume that the founders, who knew the price revolutionaries were willing to pay for liberty, believed that if they wrote a liberal democratic Constitution for the first time in history, people would always be willing to vote accordingly. In other words, it would be propaganda-resistant.

    They were wrong about how robust technology would make the means to spread propaganda would become.

    The conservative textualists on the Supreme Court read both the Bible and the Constitution similarly as if nothing had changed since they were written.

    Voila, civic illiteracy.

  12. Our despicable gop led state legislature is never satisfied with their political dominance and adds more hurdles to voting each year as the radical right extremists continue to grab more power.

    I mentioned a few weeks ago that people living in the blue cities need to get as many Dems out to vote as possible because those of us in the rural areas have only one contested race to vote for and that is for the US Senator.

  13. The question is still “What have you done for me lately?”

    The Dems needs to step up and demand a candidate for each district. The citizens of Indiana need to demand that Gerrymandering stop. You don’t have a voice in Indiana and that is why my 40 year old niece doesn’t bother.

  14. My question is, will my primary vote matter most (if it matters at all) in local, state or national races?

  15. AgingLGirl,

    If no DEM has a chance in a race, why spend money and effort to have a candidate? The beauty of the root cause – GERRY

  16. Jennifer McCormick needs to win the Governor’s race to start turning things around for Indiana. She can point out GOP transgressions, appoint judges, department heads, boards, and commissions. She can raise money to rebuild the Democrat Party and to recruit and train candidates to fill the ballot. She has a great chance because it is an open seat race against a MAGA Trumper idiot in Mike Braun whose racists commercials have been enlightening. Women and the men who respect women can get this done with hard work and dedication, but we only get this one chance.

    You can’t give less than 100% of your time and efforts between now and Nov 5 to elect Jennifer (and me) if you want the rest of your life and your children and grandchildren’s lives to be better in Indiana and the USA. It’s only 6 months of time and money before it’s over. You must do it and your friends and family must join you. Not doing this is not an option.

    Reach out to Jennifer’s campaign at, or mine at to volunteer and donate. We will be running hard as a team and will be sharing info and resources to save time and money in this battle.

    We need you to win. You need us to win. We can’t lose. It’s not an option. Thank you.

  17. Biden is not responsible for the war in Gaza. US policy has been supporting Israel since its inception. Hamas and Israel are responsible for the war.

  18. Yes, what Marc Carmichael said. It’s a presidential year with contests at the national, state, and congressional levels, even if some other races go unchallenged. Breaking the GOP stranglehold In Indiana is impossible in some local areas without some changes in statutes, regulations, and judges at state and federal levels. The biggest change is needed at the U.S. Supreme Court which is impossible unless Joe Biden is re-elected to appoint Justices committed to fairness. Likewise, we soon will have no Democratic justices left on Indiana appellate and Supreme Courts because Republicans have controlled the Governor’s office and judicial appointments for the last 19 years.
    The courts are the last resort. If we want to make more races more competitive sooner, the President and Governors need enough Democratic members of Congress and state legislatures to change non-competitive legislative district maps. I seldom encourage folks to vote straight tickets, but right now, the only way to break the current non-competitive GOP stranglehold is to vote straight Democratic – at least from federal races down through state legislative races. It’s up to us to vote and convince our family and friends to do likewise. Democracy is endangered as much by inaction as by tyrants.

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