Indiana voters deciding outcome of big GOP push

Linda Vaughan voted Republican on Tuesday like she normally does, but this year she was fueled by some extra motivation.

"R stands for revenge," the 65-year-old Fishers resident said.

Indiana voters cast their ballots Tuesday amid Republican hopes for big gains in the state's congressional delegation and Legislature, but it wasn't immediately clear whether voters were turning out in the numbers the party had hoped for.

Marion County poll workers reported heavier voter turnout than the last midterm elections in 2006, but not nearly the numbers they saw in 2008, when President Barack Obama was elected, said Angie Nussmeyer, a spokeswoman for the county clerk's office.

More than 250,000 voters requested absentee ballots or voted early in person, the Secretary of State's office said Tuesday. Final numbers of ballots returned would not be available until Wednesday, but the numbers reflect an increase from the last midterm elections in 2006, when 170,000 people voted absentee.

Election officials reported minor problems Tuesday.

Todd Darroca, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office, said poll workers at one Indianapolis precinct told voters to place their ballots in the ballot box without first checking them on a machine used to tabulate votes because the machine wasn't working. Officials later determined the machine wasn't turned on.

Darroca also said officials at a precinct in southern Indiana's Clark County had to take down a picture of the president.

Nussmeyer said voting in Indianapolis got under way fairly smoothly in Marion County, although three precincts opened late when poll workers failed to show up on time. In one case, a substitute had to be found, she said.

Republicans were hoping voter unrest over the economy and federal stimulus and health overhaul packages would lead to Democratic turnover in the congressional delegation.

Polls have shown Republican Dan Coats with a strong lead over Democrat Brad Ellsworth in the U.S. Senate race. The GOP also hoped to pick up the U.S. House seats held by Ellsworth and Democrats Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly.

The wild card was expected to be the impact of the conservative tea party, which has thrown its support to Coats and others in the GOP.

"I think there's a lot of people unhappy with their government," said James Price, a 35-year-old Indianapolis attorney who said he voted a straight Republican ticket.

Sarah Hempstead, an Indianapolis architect, agreed on that point, though she voted quite differently.

"I think that we're going to be in a backlash year against the incumbents. That tended to sway my vote really toward protecting people who ought to be in office," said Hempstead, 35.

Price said he was underwhelmed by President Barack Obama's performance and thought the health care overhaul was a mistake. He also said he was insecure about the state of the economy.

"You still have a lot of people out of work," he said. "We're losing a lot of jobs. We have massive amounts of debt."

Candace Backer, however, said that she believes more time is needed to fix the nation's problems.

"I think it's going to take us more than two years to get us out of the mess it took us eight, 10, 12 years to get into. I just don't think there's an easy fix here, and we want easy fixes," said Backer, a 51-year-old social worker from Indianapolis who said she voted a straight Democratic ticket.

Voters also are weighing in on whether to make property-tax limits enacted by lawmakers in 2008 permanent. A recent poll found that more than 60 percent of likely voters support Tuesday's proposed amendment to add the caps to the Indiana Constitution.

Supporters say the amendment will give taxpayers more stability, while opponents warn it would make it harder to change the caps should voters or lawmakers decide adjustments are needed.

But the big prize in this year's election is control of the closely divided House of Representatives, with the winner gaining an advantage in redrawing the boundaries of the state's congressional and legislative districts.

All 100 seats in the House are on Tuesday's ballot, and Democrats who gained control of the chamber two years ago hope to keep or build on their 52-48 advantage. Democrats in three districts won their seats in 2008 by fewer than 500 votes, while a few Republican incumbents won their last races by even closer margins.

Republicans control the Senate and governor's office, and retaking the House would ease the ability of GOP lawmakers to pass a new two-year state budget and redraw Indiana's political maps following the 2010 Census in their favor.

Republicans comfortably control the Indiana Senate 33-17, with 25 seats — 16 now held by Republicans and nine by Democrats — up for election Tuesday. If Republicans add one more seat, it would give the party a two-thirds majority and allow them to conduct business without any Democrats present.

One closely watched Senate race pitted Republican Jim Merritt of Indianapolis, first elected in 1990, against Marion County Sheriff Frank Anderson, a Democrat. Neither candidate had ever lost an election before Tuesday.

Daniels' political action committee contributed financial support to at least 24 Republicans seeking election to the House for the first time. They included two former agency heads under Daniels: Kyle Hupfer, who received more than $32,000 in his bid to knock off Rep. Scott Reske, D-Pendleton; and Cheryl Musgrave, who aimed to unseat Rep. Gail Riecken, D-Evansville.

Republicans looked to make gains in southern Indiana, where dissatisfaction with Washington seemed high and the GOP is making in-roads in the growing suburbs around Louisville, Ky., and other cities. will be updated with election news and results.

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