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Index shows poor voter engagement

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

On Sept. 14, results of the inaugural Civic Health Index were released to the public. The data shows that while Indiana is on-par with national standards in volunteerism, the state’s voter turnout and registration are among the lowest in the country.

The report measures family interaction, voting habits, involvement with social groups, and other areas to determine citizens’ level of engagement in their communities and with each other. Results are measured in relation to other states and the District of Columbia.

Indiana earned above-average marks for involvement in religious, school, sports, and other groups, with 36.2 percent of residents reporting involvement in such groups. Indiana ranked 21st in group associations. In 2010, 26.1 percent of Indiana citizens volunteered their time to help others; the national volunteerism rate is 26.3 percent.

Voter turnout in Indiana ranked 48th in the nation in 2010, with a rate of 39.4 percent. Only 61.2 percent of eligible Indiana citizens were registered to vote in 2010, putting the state in 43rd place for voter registration. The report also shows that Indiana ranks 48th in its analysis of citizens who discuss politics with each other.

U.S. Census Data – which provide the foundation for the report – show a connection between Indiana citizens who access news regularly and their level of community involvement. About 7-in-10 Indiana residents who access news on a daily basis via the newspaper, radio, television, or Internet sources reported doing a favor for a neighbor at least once per month. Of people who do not read a newspaper or listen to radio news daily, 5-in-10 reported doing a favor for a neighbor at least once a month.

Several organizations lent their support to the Indiana Civic Health Index, including the Indiana Bar Foundation, the Center on Congress at Indiana University, the Hoosier State Press Association, Indiana University Northwest, and the Indiana Supreme Court. The National Conference on Citizenship enlists researchers at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, who analyze the Census Current Population Survey data to create the final report.

On April 19, former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton announced the Civic Health Index project, just days after Congress passed a budget that cut $35 million for civic education. In April, Hamilton said: “Those of us interested in this project are concerned … because there is an awful lot of evidence that suggests an awful lot of Americans are less and less interested in civics, and if that’s the case, the entire democracy is in jeopardy.”

Since 2006, the NCoC has conducted a yearly national Civic Health Index. Comparing results of the indexes with research studies conducted in the 1970s and thereafter, the NCoC reports that most forms of civic engagement measured in the index – like voter turnout and volunteerism – have fallen over the past three decades. In 2008, the NCoC began offering state-level indexes. Ohio, California, and Florida were the first states to receive such a report, as they have every year since.

Rehearing "Effort seeks to revive citizens' civic interest" IL April 27-May 10, 2011
 

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  1. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

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  5. From the perspective of a practicing attorney, it sounds like this masters degree in law for non-attorneys will be useless to anyone who gets it. "However, Ted Waggoner, chair of the ISBA’s Legal Education Conclave, sees the potential for the degree program to actually help attorneys do their jobs better. He pointed to his practice at Peterson Waggoner & Perkins LLP in Rochester and how some clients ask their attorneys to do work, such as filling out insurance forms, that they could do themselves. Waggoner believes the individuals with the legal master’s degrees could do the routine, mundane business thus freeing the lawyers to do the substantive legal work." That is simply insulting to suggest that someone with a masters degree would work in a role that is subpar to even an administrative assistant. Even someone with just a certificate or associate's degree in paralegal studies would be overqualified to sit around helping clients fill out forms. Anyone who has a business background that they think would be enhanced by having a legal background will just go to law school, or get an MBA (which typically includes a business law class that gives a generic, broad overview of legal concepts). No business-savvy person would ever seriously consider this ridiculous master of law for non-lawyers degree. It reeks of desperation. The only people I see getting it are the ones who did not get into law school, who see the degree as something to add to their transcript in hopes of getting into a JD program down the road.

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