Voter turnout low 'even by primary standards' in Michiana

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.-- Voter turnout is low, less than 12 percent in St. Joseph County in the May Presidential Primary Election.

"That's a 6 to 7 percent point drop from four years ago, so this was not a high turnout primary, even by primary standards," said Elizabeth Bennion, Indiana University South Bend Chancellor Professor of Political Science.

There are so many reasons for this, she said. For one, top races drive turnout, and the presidential primary has already been decided, to many voters' dismay.

"It was an obvious Trump versus Biden race, and that was different four years ago," Bennion said. "Four years ago, we saw that Bernie Sanders was on the ballot and also Pete Buttigieg. Just in St. Joseph County alone, Buttigieg, having already dropped out by May, took about 2,000 votes."

The excitement isn't there this year; just look at the Indiana GOP governor's primary, she said.

"Many folks who encourage high voter turnout were hopeful that the GOP primary election for governor would draw a much bigger turnout than it did, but unfortunately, even there, we saw low levels of voter knowledge and voter attention, with high numbers of people saying they didn't even know who Suzanne Crouch was," Bennion said. "We saw the top four candidates spend millions and millions on those races."

She predicts a much larger turnout in the general election, of course, but probably nowhere near four years ago. 

For St. Joseph County Circuit Clerk Amy Rolfes, it's about looking ahead to November. She said the county elections ran seamlessly Tuesday. 

Her office will host "Elections 101" workshops ahead of the general, and "Work the Vote 2024" will recruit vote center workers.

"We are the only county in Indiana that received funding for this," she said.

The goal is to reach young people, since many of the country's consistent voters are aging. The average Indiana election worker, Rolfes said, is 72 years old.

This November, they will be spread out across the county's 42 voting centers.

"Anyone in the county can vote at any one of the vote centers," Rolfes said.

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