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Voting

Claire Beebe, of Valparaiso, votes Nov. 5 at the Valparaiso Public Library.

Indiana's lackluster civic engagement, particularly when it comes to voting, has inspired the establishment of a nonpartisan organization primarily focused on growing participation in state elections.

The Indiana Citizen aims in 2020 to take Indiana from the bottom 10 states for electoral participation to the top 10, by providing more information about elected officials and candidates to increase the number of informed and engaged Hoosier voters.

"Indiana consistently ranks low for voter registration, turnout and civic literacy," said Bill Moreau, co-founder of the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation, Inc.

"We need more Hoosiers to vote and have access to reliable, unbiased information about the candidates and issues."

Visitors to the website IndianaCitizen.org can register to vote and find who represents them at different levels of government.

Beginning in 2020, the website also will supply information about candidates on the primary and general election ballots plus provide news and opinions with a Hoosier focus.

The site proclaims: "The Indiana Citizen aspires to be comprehensive yet easy to navigate; high-minded yet down to earth; serious yet lively; civil yet provocative; sophisticated yet accessible to all."

The state's recently released Civic Health Index found Indiana ranked 38th of the 50 states for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election and 41st in 2016.

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Participation was even worse in midterm election years, with Indiana ranking 48th in 2010, 47th in 2014 and 43rd in 2018.

"These results make clear that on these measures of civic participation, i.e., voter turnout and registration, continued dialogue and clear actions will be critical to building civic engagement and securing the future of Indiana's civic health," said Ellen Szarleta, primary author of the Civic Health Index and professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.

According to the report, the main reason Hoosiers didn't vote in the 2016 presidential election was they "didn't like the candidates or campaign issues."

In the 2018 midterms, approximately 1 in 4 eligible Hoosier voters said they were too busy to cast a ballot or voting conflicted with their school or work schedules. The second-most popular reason was lack of interest and the feeling their vote wouldn't count, the report said.

"In a democracy, it is not enough just to let politicians set the rules of engagement," said former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind.

"As citizens, we need to know how to cultivate our own skills: to stay informed, volunteer, speak out, ask questions, make discriminating judgments about politicians and policies, and improve our neighborhoods and communities."

To that end, the report recommends the creation and implementation of a concerted, nonpartisan, statewide campaign to encourage all eligible Hoosiers to register and vote, whether using public resources or through entities like Indiana Citizen.

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