May primary expected to cost millions, bring low turnout

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INDIANAPOLIS – Headed to the polls? It might not be all that busy this year, with turnout expected to be quite low. Early voting numbers are also down.

“We are a little under on in-person voting, but the big change is on mail-in voting (which is) significantly down from 2010,” said Marion County clerk Beth White.

But putting on an election still costs money, whether voters show up or not.

Elections cost each county about $100,000, on average, here in Indiana. But in Marion County, it costs about a million dollars per election.

That’s a cost that’s even led some to suggest a change in the process.

A recent editorial in the Muncie Star-Press suggested: “There has to be a more cost effective way to choose our leaders.”

We asked local leaders what they thought about the issue.

“Different states handle the primary process differently,” said Marion Co. Republican Party chairman Kyle Walker. “It’s not really for me to decide as a party chairman, it’s a question for the General Assembly.”

“If that’s a discussion that folks would like to have, it’d be an interesting discussion, but I’ll tell you there aren’t too many other ways to do it that are more effective or more efficient to select candidates,” said Marion Co. Democratic Party chairman Joel Miller.

So why should you care about the primary this year?

“All of the races are important, obviously we have federal elections on the ballot. Then we also have statewide, countywide, and township wide elections this year all of which impact voters in some way,” said Walker.

“It’s a vital part of the process to choose the proper candidates to then represent you and your beliefs,” said Miller.

Plus, the race for Congress could  be a big deal this year, as both parties look to gain momentum ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“It’s really our civic duty to go out and vote and primaries are important because we want to make sure we get the very best candidates on the ballot,” said Indiana secretary of state Connie Lawson.

And voters like Marie Mallory say it’s just part of being an American.

“It’s very important,” said Mallory. “Everyone should come out and vote.”

But will there changes to the process in the future? It would take a drastic move by state lawmakers to make such a change.

This year, one new law passed in 2013 does require Marion County to count its ballots at a central location, which officials say will cost them even more.

“That’s going to require additional people, additional workers and additional expense,” said White. “But we are prepared to do that.”

Meantime, state officials say they’d like to see more counties use vote centers, which help cut costs but also cut down on the number of open polling locations, allowing you instead to vote anywhere in the county. Some local counties, like Johnson County, have already started using ‘vote centers’ and other counties have also expressed interest.

“They can reduce their cost because they have fewer locations, fewer poll workers, fewer machines, and fewer ballots to print,” said Lawson. “It just makes it more effective and efficient.”

Polls will be open across the state from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesday.