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GUEST COMMENTARY: Why is Indiana’s civic health important?

GUEST COMMENTARY: Why is Indiana’s civic health important?

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Engaged citizens are the foundation of a well-functioning democracy. They get involved. They understand the world around them. They care about their communities and work to improve them. In doing so, these citizens practice civility when faced with differences of opinion. When we are informed and recognize our differences–and similarities–we are taking the first step toward a dialogue that is both substantive and factual, while simultaneously bettering our civic health.

We have studied Indiana’s civic health over the past eight years through a partnership with several organizations dedicated to the issue through the Indiana Civic Health Index. The fourth, and latest, edition was released on Monday. This edition of the report seeks to use some of the Index’s findings to shape some concrete steps that we as a state can use to build on our successes and address our challenges.

Some good news …

The report has several areas of strength as a state that we can celebrate. Positively, in many community-related activities, such as volunteering, giving, group participation and community membership, Hoosiers participate in rates higher than the national average.

Some bad news …

The index also has several areas that we need to focus on and address in order to improve our overall civic health as a state. Voter registration and turnout, past and present, is consistently ranked well below the national average.

Over the coming months, we will be working with a core group of partners from the Civic Health Index to focus on improving civic education opportunities throughout the state and increasing our voter registration and turnout rates. We believe that a concerted effort in these two areas will begin to help move the needle in a positive direction for Hoosiers’ overall civic health. We look forward to building our statewide network of partners in this effort. If you believe, like we do, that our state’s civic health is a crucial component to a strong state and nation, please join us as a member of the Indiana Civic Health Alliance! Visit

By the co-chairs of the Indiana Civic Health Index: Lee Hamilton, former Congressman, U.S. House of Representatives; Randall Shepard, former Chief Justice, Indiana Supreme Court; Greg Zoeller, former Attorney General, Office of the Indiana Attorney General; and the authors of the Indiana Civic Health Index: Ellen Szarleta, director, Center for Urban and Regional Excellence, IU Northwest; Bill Moreau, partner, Barnes & Thornburg LLP; Charles Dunlap, executive director, Indiana Bar Foundation. The opinions are the writers'.


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