IUPUI Mock Election is No Joke

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IUPUI held a mock election from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at the Campus Center atrium. One hundred and fifty-four students filled out sample ballots and cast them in a real voting machine provided by the Marion County Board of Elections.  

IUPUI civic engagement area manager Brant Johnson said that the event was for individuals who are new to the election process or are interested in voting and have never voted before.

“It gives them an opportunity to become acquainted with the voting process and also meet community partners that are there to advocate for them throughout the voting process and provide them with any information that they may need,” Johnson said.

The Marion County Board of Elections sponsored the event in partnership with the ACLU of Indiana, Indiana Disability Rights, League of Women Voters of Indianapolis, and Women4Change Indiana. An Indiana Campus Compact Election Engagement Project Grant helped to fund the event.

“There a ton of resources out there from the League of Women Voters to the Indiana Election Commission to provide voters with information about who’s going to be on their ballot,” Johnson said.

Voters in Indiana can register to vote, check their registration status, and find their polling location at indianavoters.in.gov, and find additional information at vote411.org from the League of Women Voters.

Johnson said that the event was to help get voters acquainted with these resources and raise awareness for the midterm elections.

“Midterm elections are important,” Johnson said. “Indiana doesn’t vote very strongly during midterms, so what we’re trying to do is bring attention to the midterm election this year.”

During the last midterm elections in 2014, Indiana had among the lowest voter turnout rates nationwide with 29 percent of the voting eligible population casting ballots. Turnout is expected to be higher than the last midterm due to the presence of a competitive U.S. Senate election, with FiveThirtyEight forecasting a voter turnout of 44 percent in Indiana.

Students write the reasons why they believe their votes matter on a posterboard next to a column of “Spot Me at the Polls” buttons that participants received.

The sample ballot allowed students to choose among the real candidates for the U.S. Senate race and two U.S. House races, as well as elections for the statewide offices of secretary of state, auditor of state, treasurer of state, and Marion County offices including prosecutor, clerk of the Circuit Court, auditor, recorder, and sheriff.

One of the participants in the mock election, IUPUI student Hunter Adair, affirmed his belief that these upcoming midterm elections would be consequential.

“It’s going to be very important for the United States of America, and I think it’s one of the most important elections I’ll see in my life,” Adair said. “I think a big problem is people not voting, and we should definitely push people to vote.”

Adair identified acrimony and reflexive partisanship between the two major parties as one of the issues he was concerned about in the upcoming midterm elections.

“I don’t agree with the two-party system, so I’m against that. I believe you should vote based on who a person is, and not which party they run under,” Adair said.

Voters in Indiana have the option of casting a “straight party vote”, when one selects a political party near the top of their ballot which counts as a vote for every member of that party. Of the 154 students that cast a ballot, 74 percent voted straight party vote. 54 percent of participants voted straight Democratic, 15 percent voted straight Republican, and 5 percent voted straight Libertarian.

IUPUI student Paije Jones said that she would likely vote straight party for the Democrats.

“I’m a Democrat, so I just go with the Democratic choice,” Jones said.  

Jones said that this was because she trusted the party on the issue she cared about most: higher teacher pay.

“I feel like teachers should get a higher pay,” Jones said. “I want to be a teacher, so I feel like if we’re helping future generations to become the best they can be, I feel like they should be paid more than they get paid now.”

IUPUI student Estefania Gomez said that event organizers for the mock election did a good job of communicating how to vote straight party and the importance of the upcoming elections to a younger audience who may not otherwise exercise their right to vote.

“We are the future, so we should be the ones that decide our futures and who is in charge of our future,” Gomez said.

Gomez said it was important to research the candidates and where they stood on the issues before making a decision.

“I get a lot of commercials and stuff like that when I go on YouTube about Joe Donnelly and stuff like that,” Gomez said. “I realize that I have to look at different sources to see what they stand for. I mean, those commercials are meant to do something, meant to make you not vote for them.”

The most high-profile race on the sample ballot, the U.S. Senate election among Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, Republican State Senator Mike Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton, had the fewest number of votes cast in the mock election.

Donnelly received the fewest number of votes of any Democratic candidate in the mock election with 98 votes, while Marion County Recorder Kate Sweeney Bell received the most support from students with 116 votes. Bell is a graduate of IUPUI and visited the College Democrats at IUPUI last year in her capacity as chairwoman of the Marion County Democratic Party.

In addition to candidate preferences, students could answer additional questions on the ballot about their beliefs. To the question, “Should colleges require SAT or ACT scores?”, 56 percent of participating students answered no, 38 percent answered yes, and 6 percent did not answer.

All interviewed participants praised the mock election process and urged their fellow students to vote. Washington Monthly ranked IUPUI No. 13 out of 1,488 colleges nationwide for its civic engagement.

“Whatever you stand by, just go vote,” Gomez said. “Get your voice heard.”

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