Indiana midterm election turnout drops 20%, with Marion County near bottom

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Electorate engagement wasn’t as high as hoped, with just 41% of Indiana’s registered voters going to the polls for last month’s midterm elections—a nearly 20% drop in turnout from the 2018 midterms.

Indiana Election Division results show Hoosier voters turned out at the lowest rates in Decatur, Tippecanoe and Marion counties, with turnout percentages of 24%, 32% and 34%, respectively. They voted at the highest rates in Crawford, Spencer and Union counties, at 51% turnout for all three.

It’s the latest data point in a long-running trend of low turnout when compared to the rest of the country.

“There are some states, historically, that have high turnout and some that have low turnout. And Indiana is one that turnout has been historically on the lower side … and 2022 was a bit lower than usual,” said Chad Kinsella, an associate professor of political science at Ball State University. He also directs the Bowen Center for Public Affairs.

But midterm turnout has been lower before. While 51% of registered voters cast a ballot in 2018, just 30% did so in 2014, according to the Election Division.

Who voted where?

Kinsella said that age, income and education are the biggest factors in explaining turnout—with older, wealthier and more educated people being more likely to vote.

“Older people live out in those rural counties and they tend to vote more often,” he said. “… A lot of those people with money are going to live outside of the city limits.”

That can also influence geographic trends.

Indiana’s most rural counties generally had higher turnout than their urban counterparts in Election Division voter statistics, when matched against one Purdue University study.

And that’s born out in Kinsella’ own research: In precinct-level Delaware County data, he said, turnout was lower near Muncie and higher in suburban and rural areas.

Hoosier voting culture

Less measurable is Indiana’s civic culture.

But a sense of duty to vote appears stronger among rural Americans, said Michael Wolf, political science professor and department chair at Purdue University Fort Wayne. He cited University of Notre Dame research.

“There’s this very communal sense and very socialized duty to vote that ends up coming through, whereas a lot of times in suburban and urban areas, a lot of voter turnout is often driven by competition,” Wolf said.

Duty is constant, but motivation can change every election.

Wolf said he’s seen the theory play out in his own university, which hosts a mix of students from urban, suburban and rural backgrounds. One student in 2020 coordinated a weekend trip home with hometown friends to vote early together.

“To think that they were coming from all different colleges around to come up and vote at the same time, kind of indicates, in his own words, just that that was what the community expected,” Wolf said. “So that’s what they did.”

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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10 thoughts on “Indiana midterm election turnout drops 20%, with Marion County near bottom

  1. I think that since Indiana is so reliably a “red state”, there is a certain complacency that keeps people from getting out to vote. Republicans feel there is no need because, well, it’s Indiana and Democrats feel like their vote won’t matter. Which is to say, if the Democrats could could actually do something to energize and engage their base in this state, they could probably have some real impact on who is representing us. But there just isn’t any engagement. Zero.

    1. This, 100%. My wife and I voted and our best guess… nearly everyone voting that day was 60+ years old and voting red. No young people were voting.

    2. Indiana Democrats were their usual inept self this election, just like they are every election.

    3. In Marion County the Dems sure took the prosecutor’s office and 7th Congressional district by wide margins. Please don’t tell me that was rural gop old folks.

  2. Just a heads-up: the voter stats referenced above lists 34,000+ registered voters in Decatur County… the population of the County is 26,320. Someone needs to check their math…

    1. Bryan, the number of registered voters in Decatur County does not appear in this story. Could you be more specific about where you got that figure and we’ll look into it?

    2. Sorry for the delay in getting back– From the same site that was offered above (https://enr.indianavoters.in.gov/site/index.html) if you click on “voter statistics” at the top, for the November 8, 2022 midterm election, it has Decatur County listed as having 34K+ registered voters– well beyond the total population of the county. I’m sure it was a data entry mistake, but in calculating the percentage of voter participation this wrong number causes the result to be misleading. I haven’t checked the numbers for any other counties.

  3. A significant reason for low turnout is gerrymandering when redistricting. Also known as the process in which the political party in power chooses their voters as oppose to the democratic process of the voters choosing their representatives.
    The proof is in the numbers (so why vote):
    55% of the total voters in Indiana vote Republican.
    45% of the total voters in Indiana vote Democrat.
    80% of the Indiana Senate are Republicans.
    71% of the Indiana House are Republicans.

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