Indiana ranks dead-last among the states when it comes to voter turnout. But why do people stay away on Election Day? As part of a project with Nuvo and the IUPUI Center for Civic Literacy, 90.1 WFYI will be following the story of one non-voter, Sara Hill, as she decides whether to go to the polls.
On Election Day, Hill talks with her first-graders about doing something she’s never done herself: voting. The children’s lessons in democracy don’t get into the nitty gritty of electoral politics. Hill says they’re more about voting to decide on two different things:
"We talk about voting in general in the classroom, like you vote for a reward or a restaurant that your family would go to." said Hill.
Though the majority of Hoosier voters have voted at least once in their lives, Hill is hardly an exception: when local elections roll around, people usually stay away in droves. Only about 30 percent of eligible Indiana voters turned out for last year’s general election. Hill explains why she doesn’t vote.
"In my opinion, I feel like not voting is better than making an uneducated vote." commented Hill.
Hill lives with her husband and their toddler son in Noblesville, and she teaches full-time in the Carmel Clay Schools. So she’s busy, and it can take a lot of time to learn the nuances of the issues and candidates’ stances on them.
"The health reform issues, I think that whole topic can be really confusing, and immigration…. all of those things are things that are familiar, but things I just don’t feel like I understand and know enough about." said Hill.
Getting to the polls can be a hassle, too.
"As a teacher, you’d have to take a day off to even go vote. Sometimes it’s the process of the polling place and being able to be there to actually physically vote." said Hill.
She knows she may feel differently once her son starts going to public school in Noblesville, where her family has lived since 2009. But for now, politics on a federal, state and local level are off her radar.
"In my everyday life, I don’t feel the effect of some of the laws and policies that are passed, so that’s another reason that it doesn’t interest me very much." Hill said.
And Noblesville’s coming elections aren’t exactly exciting. Republicans dominate the local government – there are no Democrats on the City Council – and Republican Mayor John Ditslear is running for his fourth term. May’s primaries have essentially decided November’s results. Hill says it’s easy to feel disconnected from the candidates.
"I feel like sometimes our officials get elected because of popularity, not because of what they stand for." Hill said.
We’ll be checking in periodically with Sara Hill in the run-up to the November election. Will Sara Hill get out to vote? Will you?
For more on the Center for Civic Literacy’s “Electing Our Future” project, go to electingourfuture.com. The first of three forums will be held at Central Library on September 21.