Fall election preview

In some neighborhoods this week, no voters cast ballots in the primary election.

In five other neighborhoods, fewer than 2 percent of voters showed up.

In the area northeast of Interstate 65 and Main Street in Greenwood, six out of 528 registered voters in that precinct cast ballots. The Republican city council contest in that area was decided by 26 votes.

The county is divided into precincts based on geography for voting purposes. Although eligible voters can cast a ballot at any vote center, which races you vote in are based on the precinct you live in.

In a Greenwood precinct, seven out of 547 possible voters cast ballots. In total, 29 out of 88 precincts had fewer than 5 percent of voters show up Tuesday. Voters were selecting some Franklin Republican nominations for city council and clerk, some Greenwood Republican nominations for city council and clerk-treasurer and Whiteland Republican town council nominations.

Turnout was expected to be low, and it was, setting a record low for the county at 7.9 percent overall. More people are likely to vote in the fall, just because they always do; but unless new candidates step in to run, most communities won’t even have an election, Johnson County Clerk Sue Anne Misiniec said.

Voters who aren’t registered have until Oct. 5 to register in order to be eligible to vote in the fall election.

So far, three races are set for fall. Voters in Greenwood will choose three candidates for at-large seats out of three Republicans and one Democrat and will decide between Republican incumbent Bruce Armstrong and Democrat challenger Ranjanpreet Nagra in District 3. Bargersville voters will select three at-large town council candidates from among three Republicans and one Democrat.

Unless the Democratic Party slates additional candidates or independent or third-party candidates file this summer, voters in Franklin, New Whiteland, Whiteland, Trafalgar, Prince’s Lakes and Edinburgh won’t have a ballot in November.

“We’re waiting to see what happens. Sometimes in the past it’s been a done deal. We’ll see what happens. But in Franklin, for example, with it being a larger city and the county seat, it would be interesting if we don’t have a ballot there,” Misiniec said.

There’s still time for additional races to shape up this summer. Democrats have until June 30 to add candidates in any vacant slots on the ballot. The Libertarian Party and independents have the same deadline to file nominations.

Right now no additional Democrat has asked to be slated on the ballot for fall, party chairman Bob Kramer said.

“We are hopeful. We still want our citizens to have a choice. We’re still trying to get people who are willing to put their name out there,” he said.

The Johnson County Libertarian Party, which has fielded some local candidates in the past, also doesn’t have anyone committed to run yet, party chairman Rodney Benker said. He wants to focus on increasing awareness of the Libertarian Party in the county as another option for voters in 2016 and beyond, he said.

Independents don’t have a party organization to get them on the ballot, so any potential candidate needs to go out and collect signatures from voters who will back the person on the ballot. The clerk’s office has given out paperwork to one person who expressed an interest in running for a position in Trafalgar and spoken with others who were asking about what they need to do to get on the ballot, Misiniec said.

If communities don’t have any contests, they won’t have a ballot in fall, Misiniec said. Voters in Bargersville, New Whiteland, Trafalgar, Prince’s Lakes and Edinburgh didn’t get to vote in the primary because there were no contests.

“If we don’t have a contest between anyone, then we won’t have an election there. There is no need to. It’s too expensive to staff, print ballots and get all that ready if the end result is going to be the same,” Misiniec said. “As a taxpayer, I don’t think it would be good use of taxpayer money.”

Turnout in the fall election during the last municipal election was about 23 percent. But both Greenwood and Franklin had contests for mayor, in which voters chose Mark Myers in Greenwood over a Libertarian and independent and Joe McGuinness unseated incumbent Fred Paris, who ran as an independent.

Turnout in 2011 increased from 15 percent in the primary to 23 percent in the fall, despite fewer races to decide. Residents typically vote at higher rates in the fall elections, even though many races are decided in the spring because the Republican Party so heavily dominates local offices, Misiniec said. If voters didn’t pick the candidate they wanted on Tuesday in the Republican primaries, they may not get an alternative in November, she said.

Election officials will consider ways to improve awareness about the election, such as putting up more signs that will help direct people to vote centers on Election Day, she said. Taxpayers pay to run the election whether a handful of people show up or polls are mobbed, so voters should make their voices heard about who is running their communities, she added.

“It’s so discouraging for me. I really get on a high horse,” Misiniec said. “Those people are there, why don’t they go vote?”

By the numbers

The county set a record low turnout Tuesday after few voters showed up to cast ballots in the primary. Here’s how you voted:

7.89 percent: Overall turnout in the primary

54,610: Voters who were eligible to vote

4,307: Votes cast

88: Precincts eligible to vote in the primary

3: Precincts in which no voters cast ballots

8: Precincts with less than 2 percent turnout

29: Precincts with less than 5 percent turnout

3: Precincts with turnouts of 20 percent or higher