While the general election is still almost eight months away, straight-party voters might want to practice filling in a few extra bubbles. Under a bill that made it through the General Assembly and that will presumably be signed by Gov. Mike Pence, straight-party voters in November and future general elections will have to individually mark at-large candidates for those votes to count. For example, Porter County has three at-large Democratic candidates and three at-large Republic candidates running for the County Council in November. A straight-ticket voter for either party will have to individually mark those at-large candidates or those candidates won’t get that vote. The switch could affect tens of thousands of voters. In the 2012 Porter County general election, 32,000 people cast straight-ticket ballots. About 56 percent were Democrats, 42 percent were Republicans, and the rest were Libertarians.
Leaders from both parties said they would have to educate voters, candidates and poll workers about the switch to make sure every vote counts. Porter County Democratic Chairman Jeffrey Chidester doesn’t like the change because voter turnout is already a struggle in the state, “and here we set up a confusing obstacle for voters.”
At-large candidates are toward the bottom of the ballot, already posing a challenge for voters who may not get that far, Chidester said, and Senate Bill 61 only further inconveniences voters. “That’s one of the reasons people vote straight-party, time and expediency,” he said.
While the ballot instructions will include the new practice, Chidester, who’s been working to educate candidates in this year’s elections about the switch, wondered how many people even read those instructions.