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Only 1,526 votes cast in St. Joseph County primary election so far

NOW: Only 1,526 votes cast in St. Joseph County primary election so far

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The St. Joseph County Democrats said it’s encouraging people to vote after seeing low voter turnout just five days from Tuesday’s primary election in St. Joseph County. 

Austin Metheny, St. Joseph County Democrats executive director, said the group noticed ‘lackluster’ turnout at the polls. According to the county clerk, as of Thursday morning, 1,526 early votes had been processed. 

This number is high compared to the last municipal primary in 2015. By May 2, 2015, the county had processed only 1,439 votes. 

“A little disappointed,” said Metheny. 

The Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor and common council in South Bend and Mishawaka will be decided on May 7. Metheny said if less than 8,000 voters decide the election, the margin of error will be significantly small. 

“This election might come down to less than 50 votes,” he said. 

In total, more than 13,000 votes were cast in the county during the 2015 primary election. In 2011, the county reported just over 18,000 ballots in the primary. 

Rita Glenn, St. Joseph County clerk of the circuit court, said past voter turnout numbers for primaries shows low interest. 

“Nobody comes out to vote and it’s really sad,” said Glenn. 

The numbers show that the numbered of registered voters has decreased from 2011 to 2019. In 2011, the county had nearly 200,000 registered voters. 

In 2019, Glenn said between South Bend and Mishawaka there are about 100,000 registered voters. 

“I’ve seen the numbers go down,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out why people aren’t coming out to vote.” 

At Indiana University South Bend, Dr. Elizabeth Bennion gave a variety of reasons why turnout might be low. She said the following could be affecting voter turnout:

  1. Less popular election,
  2. Uncontested races,
  3. And a lack of controversial public questions, known as referendums. 

“But it really needs to be something that captures the public’s imagination to really spike voter turnout and get people to the polls,” said Dr. Bennion. 

Bennion said in theory, current South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s run for the presidency should draw more public attention to the local races. However, according to the numbers, people are much less likely to turn out for municipal elections. 

“We’re talking about extraordinarily low numbers of voters,” she said. “We don’t expect to see you know a third or half of the electorate coming out.”

Glenn said there were record numbers of voters across the nation, including St. Joseph County, when President Barack Obama ran in 2004 and 2008. She said the county wants those same voting numbers this year. 

“We encourage people,” she said. “It’s the greatest right that we have.”

Glenn said registered voters wanting to vote on or before May 7 need to meet the following requirements:

  1. Live within the city limits of either Mishawaka or South Bend,
  2. And have a valid Indiana ID, military card or passport. 

If you are wanting to vote at the County-City Building on W. Jefferson Blvd. in Downtown South Bend, the polls will be open:

  1. Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,
  2. Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,
  3. Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.,
  4. Tuesday, May 7 is the last day to cast your ballot; polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

On Sunday, community members will be busing churchgoers to polling locations for an event called ‘Souls to the Poll.’ Click here for more information. 

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