Low 2014 voter turnout highlights challenges in Indiana

April 4, 2015

Indiana's record-low voting turnout in the 2014 election reflects challenges with midterm elections and raises scrutiny of how states register their voters, a new report says.

Since 2002, Indiana has consistently been ranked among the five states with the lowest midterm voter turnout. Just over 28 percent of Indiana's eligible voters cast a ballot last year, the lowest rate in the nation, the Tribune-Star reported.

"The last time Indiana was in the top 25 for voter turnout nationwide was in 1982," said George Pillsbury, senior consultant for Nonprofit VOTE and author of the report "America Goes to the Polls 2014: A Report on Voter Turnout for the Midterm 2014 Election."

Nationally, the 2014 midterm saw just 36.6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. That's the lowest voter turnout since World War II and is down from 42 percent in 2010, the report said.

Maine led the nation with a 58.5 percent turnout.

Midterm elections percentages are typically 15 to 25 points lower than the turnout rate in presidential elections because of an absence of big-ticket and competitive races, said Brian Miller, executive director of Nonprofit VOTE.

But the methods states use to register voters also could be a factor. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia allow qualified voters to go to the polls and register to vote on Election Day, Miller said.

"Most people live busy lives and are juggling many things and do not educate themselves or are not focusing on the elections until weeks before the election," Miller said. "But by that time, it is too late to get registered."

Indiana requires voters to register 29 days before an election.

Vigo County Clerk Dave Crockett said he supports efforts to increase voter turnout but questions whether same-day registration is the solution.

"I think it would really slow the process," Crockett said. "If people really want to vote, in my opinion, there is plenty of time to register. They have six months between each election to register, but like a lot of other things, people wait until the last minute."

He said a better solution might be to extend voting time by an hour so polls close at 7 p.m., giving more voters time to cast ballots after work.


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