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Mayoral election outcome could hinge on turnout

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The fate of mayoral and City-County Council candidates in Tuesday’s election is likely to come down to turnout in a few key districts, including Center Township and southern Marion County.

Political science experts say each party’s get-out-the-vote efforts will be critical this year, particularly for council races that have drawn little voter interest.

“It’s basically who turns out their base,” said Brian Vargus, a political science professor at IUPUI who studies voting patterns. “The Democrats have a bigger base, but will they vote?”

Democrats indeed have the demographic advantage; the party led Republicans in straight-party voting in Marion County by 20,975 votes in the 2010 election.

But that didn’t bring them victory in 2007, when Republican Mayor Greg Ballard defeated incumbent Democrat Bart Peterson and Republicans took control of the council, due in part to lower-than-usual turnout in traditionally strong Democratic areas.

This time around, targeting large swaths of voters in Center and Warren townships will be particularly important for Democrats, Vargus said, as will drawing high turnout among African-Americans, who make up a major part of the Democratic base.

For Republicans, the southern Franklin, Perry and Decatur townships will be key.

Ed Treacy, chairman of the Marion County Democratic Party, said his party’s strategy since 2004 has been to target every Democratic voter in every precinct, including those that have as few as one Democrat. That was a shift in strategy from earlier years, when Democrats focused on the areas where their base was strongest.

 “Once we started working every precinct, we starting winning the elections,” Treacy said.

Republicans, meanwhile, have been making a strategic push to conduct “the largest get-out-the-vote effort in possibly the history of Marion County Republicans,” said Kyle Walker, the party’s chairman. That has included phone calls, door-to-door efforts and community meetings.

And while Republicans lag demographically, Walker said there’s a strong base of independent voters in the county, as evidenced by the 2008 election, when Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and Democratic President Barack Obama both won the county by strong margins — 48,357 and 105,816 votes, respectively.

Drawing independents is a viable strategy, Walker said, “particularly in a municipal election when the issues that will be governed by the ultimate winners are very close and very important to voters.”

“Municipal elections are very candidate-driven,” he said.

It’s unclear how many independent voters reside in Marion County, but Vargus agreed that a large swath of independents could tip the balance for either Ballard or Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy. Still, he thinks party-based voting will drive turnout in this election, as it does on the national level.

So far, early voting, including in-person, absentee and overseas ballots, has been stronger this year than in 2007, when there were 10,267 early ballots cast with three days remaining until the election. As of Sunday, this year's tally was 18,055.

But Vargus said that’s not necessarily an indication of strong turnout on Tuesday. He anticipates turnout will be lighter than in 2007, when it was about 27 percent.

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  • voters
    not to be offensive even though some will be, but anyone that votes a party line just because they call themselves a party member should have their right to vote removed. come on people look at the individuals running and what all they stand for. i am not a republican and i am not a democrat. i am an AMERICAN. we talk about equality yet divide ourselves on everything. in this election there is not much seperating ballard from kennedy. but the differances that are there is what makes me vote. in this case it isn't so much the better person but what they stand for. i can not in good conscience vote for someone that wants to trample on my constitutional rights the way that kennedy wants to. i, a registered voter in this city, will not vote for someone that gets on tv and acts like they are so smart that i can't see the BS they are spreading. i hope and pray that each one of you votes your conscience and your heart and not a party line. amen
  • voters
    not to be offensive even though some will be, but anyone that votes a party line just because they call themselves a party member should have their right to vote removed. come on people look at the individuals running and what all they stand for. i am not a republican and i am not a democrat. i am an AMERICAN. we talk about equality yet divide ourselves on everything. in this election there is not much seperating ballard from kennedy. but the differances that are there is what makes me vote. in this case it isn't so much the better person but what they stand for. i can not in good conscience vote for someone that wants to trample on my constitutional rights the way that kennedy wants to. i, a registered voter in this city, will not vote for someone that gets on tv and acts like they are so smart that i can't see the BS they are spreading. i hope and pray that each one of you votes your conscience and your heart and not a party line. amen

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

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