Hoosiers go to the polls Nov. 3 to elect city and town leaders who will make decisions over the next four years impacting everything from local tax rates to the placement of new road signs.
However, very few voters are expected to participate in the mostly weakly contested municipal elections, thereby likely continuing Indiana's streak of near worst-in-nation voter turnout.
Just 30 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in 2014, the lowest total for any regular general election in state history.
In 2012, with the presidency, Indiana's governorship and a U.S. Senate seat on the line, more than 4 in 10 Hoosiers still stayed home.
"This low rate of civic engagement should concern every Hoosier, no matter your political party or philosophy, because it puts the future of our democracy in jeopardy," said John Gregg, a Democratic candidate for Indiana governor.
Gregg is so distressed by the state's dismal voter turnout that last month he made increasing participation the centerpiece of his first policy proposal in what's expected to be a 2016 rematch against Republican Gov. Mike Pence.
"I'm running for governor because I believe Indiana is stronger and better when every Hoosier has a seat at the table and is called upon to participate," Gregg said. "From growing our economy, to improving education, to ensuring families are healthy and safe, to rebuilding our infrastructure — we all have a stake in Indiana's future. To set the best course possible, we need everyone's input."
To that end, Gregg has proposed six measures he believes would make it easier and more convenient for Hoosiers to cast a ballot, including lengthening Indiana's Election Day voting hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., instead of closing the polls at 6 p.m.
Just two other states, Kentucky and Hawaii, give their citizens only until 6 p.m. to vote on Election Day.
Gregg also wants to expand the forms of identification voters can present to obtain a ballot, establish additional early voting locations and hours, allow anyone to vote by mail and create an independent redistricting commission to reduce non-competitive races for the U.S. House and the Indiana General Assembly.
"These proposals are just a starting point. Some may work, some may not, and there certainly will be other ideas to add to this list — the point is this: we must try to address this crisis before it gets any worse," Gregg said.
Perhaps Gregg's most ambitious voter participation proposal is automatic voter registration, which recently was enacted in Oregon and soon might become law in California.
Instead of an individual having to visit a county clerk's office or take other steps to register to vote at least 30 days before an election, all Hoosiers with a driver's license or state identification card automatically would be registered to vote, unless they opt out or are legally disqualified from voting.
Gregg said about 400,000 Hoosiers (out of 5 million adult residents) possess those documents but are not registered to vote. Since Hoosiers must already show ID to vote, taking the separate registration process out of the equation would make the ballot more accessible.
"Hoosiers are at our best when we are all working together — no matter what the challenge," Gregg said. "And to achieve our best, we cannot continue to leave so many citizens out of our electoral process."
A spokeswoman for Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson, who oversees Indiana's elections and has vigorously promoted voter registration this year ahead of Monday's deadline, would not comment on Gregg's proposals.
However, Valerie Warycha said Lawson's Election Division is keeping tabs on the implementation and impact of automatic voter registration in Oregon to see whether they want to support a similar program in Indiana.
Representatives of the Pence campaign and the Indiana Republican Party both declined to comment on Gregg's voter participation proposals.
Automatic voter registration has been endorsed by Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who filed legislation in August seeking to implement it nationwide.
Critics contend automatic voter registration will result in voter fraud, especially in states like Illinois — but not Indiana — where undocumented immigrants are permitted to obtain temporary driver's licenses.