Losing Democracy in Delaware County IN
Nine county races uncontested in 2014 primary and general
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - A record number of uncontested races combined with continuing low voter turnout challenges basic democracy, says a local political think tank expert.
And this week's decison by the Indiana Senate to put off the same sex marriage ban referendum in November will mean even more issue driven voters might stay home.
Last week, Delaware County has nine uncontested county races, including county prosecutor and four circuit court judges.
And eastern Indiana had three Indiana senators, and two state representatives also go unchallenged in the primary and general so far.
Ray Scheele, co-director of Ball State's Bowen Center for Public Affairs, has been watching elections and politicsl for nearly a half century and pointed to what Al Gore recently said online about democracy fading as many people reject politics and government and are too busy going about their daily lives. The Bowen Center polls voters and also studies political trends.
"People get discouraged about their government," said Scheele, regarding recent government shutdowns and even the inability sometimes to plow snow.
And that frustration can lead to feeling powerless and not bothering to exercise that simple principle to vote.
The lack of contests can be contributed to a decline in political party numbers and those patronage jobs that used to go to those in power.
Fundamentalist groups like the Tea Party and Citizens United that support conservative extremism to local and national government have divided the Republican Party while issues ranging from same sex, abortion and taxes split Democrats along with personalities.
Locally, big names and history will guide the 2014 mid term Take the likely next auditor, Steve Craycraft, now county clerk, goes uncontested for now. He also is one of several retired county police officers in government, and his father, Allie, was longtime state senator for Delaware County.
Then there's Republican county prosecutor Jeff Arnold, also uncontested, who has represented the state for years and has the support of local law enforcement, both Republican and Democrat.
And history says that no Delaware County sheriff has been defeated for a second term which makes Democratic Sheriff Mike Scroggins headed for re-election with only perennial candidate Ken Davenport in the primary and a county security officer and city policeman seeking the Republican nomination.
What's unique is that three county judges, Democrats Tom Cannon Jr and Linda Ralu Wolf, and senior Judge John Feick, a Republican, have no opponents this spring or fall. Never in judicial history has that happened, and there's been no talk in political parties about appointing candidates for November.
The Statehouse lawmakers usually are protected by the party that draws legislative lines after a census. And Republicans approved legislative maps that favor many of the 100 House members and 25 senators in Indiana ballots in 2014.
Four of the five lawmakers uncontested in eastern Indiana are Republicans including Sens. Doug Eckerty of Yorktown and Travis Hoildman of Markle, besides Reps. Kevin Mahan of Hartford City and Tom Saunders of Lewisville.
Mahan, a former county sheriff, was surprised at no contest in his House race after two hotly contested races in 2010-12. But he pointed out Democrats could still appoint a challenger for November.
Rep. Sue Errington, D-Muncie, said gerrymandering by Republicans made many legislative seats secure. Errington is not contested in the primary and has a newcomer challenging in the general.
With Republican super majorities in the House and Senate, Demcrats statewide are looking at little change and Republicans took the fight out of the election by delaying a referendum on the same sex marriage amendment this week.
Voter turnout also has been factor in recent elections where incumbent generally are favored.
Among the biggest turnouts during the last 50 years, Scheele said, was the 1960 presidential election between Democratic President John F. Kennedy, and later Republican President Richard M. Nixon.
Then an uptick in voting came in 2008 when then Sen. Barack Obama became the first African American president of the United States.
By comparson, voting in Delaware County has declined to less than 25 percent in mid term elections recently and only 16 percent of voters showed up for a referendum last year to defeat higher taxes for school buses.
And the new generation of voters, college students, are not turned on by government or politics.
Troy McElvaney, who leads a Ball State fraternity, said it was difficult to register students who did not wanted to be involved in government.
Scheele said keys to improving democracy was more registration besides that old school knocking on doors and going to meetings to exercise basic rights and demand that people be heard.