Ballot Changes and Low Turnout

By Max Resnik

April 11, 2012 Updated Apr 11, 2012 at 6:26 PM EDT

ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Allen County Election Board is reporting a below average voter turnout in the first week of early voting.

Absentee ballots for the May 8 Indiana Primary were mailed March 24, and half the expected number of ballots have been returned according to Beth Dlug with the Allen County Election Board. Coupled with the low returns on absentee ballots are low numbers at voting booths at 1 W. Superior St. Dlug says less than 40 Allen County residents have filled the booths to cast their ballots.

Andy Downs with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, like Dlug, says the low primary turnout is no surprise as it echoes much of what the nation has experienced in the primary season. Downs says voter interest should decrease further leading up to the Hoosier State’s primary after Rick Santorum’s announcement that he will be suspending his campaign.

“Even though Romney has been opening up a bigger and bigger lead, having Santorum in and actively campaigning as a viable second place candidate would have driven turnout up. Now that he's out, turnout will go down, and all the races will suffer accordingly.”

Those races include council and precinct positions as well as the hotly contested race between U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and his opponent, Indiana treasurer Richard Murdock. There are also ballot issues to be voted on in the May 8 primary.

Those ballot issues, in a new move this year, will appear at the beginning of the ballot ahead of the candidates. Dlug says the state Legislature made the move to increase awareness and participation in the issues.

“They felt that they would get more consideration if they were at the top of the ballot. We'll see how it goes throughout the election to see if that does play out for them.”

Those issues include two school referendums. The first, for the Fort Wayne Community Schools, calls for close $120 million for renovations and repairs on the district’s 36 buildings. The second, for the East Allen County Schools, asks voters to say yes or no on a referendum to fund nearly $90 million for similar school repairs and renovations as well as the construction on a new intermediate school in New Haven.

The third issue Allen County voters will see before any candidates on the ballot pertains to Huntertown. There, they are asking for a yes or no vote on whether the city should create a utility service board to operate the town’s utilities, which include water utility, sewage works and sanitation pick up.

Dlug says average turnout for a May primary in a presidential election year usually hovers around 25 percent. She says she expects this primary to come close to that average.

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