Odd-year turnout at 34 percent is high

Tribune-Star/Austen Leake Popular Spot: Honey Creek Mall’s voting site was a common place for voters on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s general election voter turnout was a complete reversal of four years ago.

Voter turnout was 34.1% for the county with 86 of 88 precincts reporting as of 10 p.m. with 24,091 ballots cast out of 70,639 registered voters. 

The city has 36,725 registered voters and the city voter turnout percentage was not available as of press time.

That’s a far cry from 2015 which had the smallest number of voters for a city election in Terre Haute history. A total of 8,255 Hauteans cast ballots in the 2015 mayoral election, including 2,849 who participated in early absentee ballot voting, barely 10% of the 40,996 registered voters in the city at that time. However, in 2015, there were no county voters participating. That election also had no referendums.

“For an odd year, in which you typically get a lower voter turnout, 34% turnout is high,” said Matt Bergbower, associate professor of political science at Indiana State University.

“But going into the election, I expected an even higher voter turnout given the referendums” for a casino and a new tax to fund schools “and the attention that both referendums were getting from yard signs to press attention, and people had strong opinions about the referendums on both sides,”  Bergbower said.

“But since the 2015 mayoral election had such low voter turnout, it seems like the only way we could go was up,” Bergbower said. “This time we had an independent candidate who was advertising quite a bit and was on social media, so you felt that people would go to the ballot box with a candidate in mind, as Duke Bennett has his people, just like in years past, with municipal unions supporting him.

“The casino referendum drew them out, but all three mayoral candidates supported the casino so they were not taking advantage of that,” Bergbower added.

Telephone messages seeking comment were left Tuesday with Vigo County Clerk Brad Newman and with Kara Anderson, president of the Vigo County Election Board. Neither had been reached late Tuesday.

By the noon Monday, the deadline for early voting in Vigo County, more than 12,500 ballots had been cast in the general election. Vigo County election officials said 6,447 ballots had been cast by city residents. Another 6,132 ballots had been cast by county residents who voted on two referendums - one for a tax increase to fund schools and a second to allow a casino in Terre Haute. 

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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