The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 1:00 am

Hoosiers' voting rate low: Study

State ranks among bottom 10

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers rank second in the country in sharing their views on social, political and local issues online and eighth in frequently reading, watching or listening to news and information on these issues.

But they don't vote, according to the fourth edition of the Indiana Civic Health Index released Monday.

Indiana residents show a trend of placing in the bottom 10 of all states on voting and the bottom third on voter registration, persistent since 2010. Data from the 2018 midterm elections show that while there was improvement, the state remained low on these indicators.

But Hoosiers rank higher than the national average in volunteering, giving charitably and other non-electoral activities.

Former Congressman Lee Hamilton, former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Randall Shepard and former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller on Monday released the findings of the Index, which is funded by the Indiana Bar Foundation and other groups.

Its primary source is the National Conference on Citizenship's analysis of the U.S. Census Current Population Survey. Because multiple sources of data with varying sample sizes are used, the report is not able to compute one margin of error for Indiana across all indicators.

Civic health reflects the degree to which citizens participate in their communities, from local and state governance to interactions with friends or family.

“In a democracy, it is not enough just to let politicians set the rules of engagement. As citizens, we need to know how to cultivate our own skills: to stay informed, volunteer, speak out, ask questions, make discriminating judgments about politicians and policies, and improve our neighborhoods and communities,” Hamilton said in the report.

“And we need to know the values that underlie productive civic dialogue: mutual respect and tolerance; the humility to know that sometimes we're wrong; the honesty to keep deliberations open and straightforward; the resolve to surmount challenges whatever the obstacles; and, of course, the civility that allows us to find common ground despite our disagreements.”

This year's Civic Health Index for the first time includes a recommendation to convene a civic education task force. Anyone from the governor and General Assembly to higher education institutions and nonprofits could take up the mantle. The task force would study methods of instruction, programs and educational outcomes to improve civic education opportunities for all ages and prepare specific policy recommendations to improve civic education in Indiana.

A second recommendation made by the Index is to increase Indiana's voting turnout from the bottom 10 of the states to the top 10.

To do so Indiana would need to improve turnout by 20%.

More specifically, it is estimated that a 20% increase would require approximately 500,000 additional voters in 2020.

Creating and implementing a concerted, statewide campaign to encourage all eligible Hoosiers to register and vote would be necessary, the report said.

In 2018, the main reasons given by Hoosiers for not registering were lack of interest or involvement in the election/politics and missing the registration deadline. Combined, these two reasons accounted for almost 50% of the respondents who did not register to vote in 2018.

Almost 43% cited lack of interest in the election or no involvement with politics and 16% cited failure to meet registration deadlines. About 5% indicated they did not know where or how to register and 4% cited permanent illness or disability as a reason for not registering to vote.

Indiana has one of the earliest voter registration deadlines in the country – 29 days before an election. Some states have moved to same-day registration.

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