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Morris: It's election season - is anyone paying attention?

November 9, 2011
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commentary-morris-gregI’m sure you’ve noticed there is a hotly contested election for mayor of Indianapolis. In my business circles, it has been a frequent focus of discussion for months.

The problem with this campaign and most others is, by the time the election gets here, after all the negative commercials and nasty exchanges, we are so disgusted with the whole process, we don’t care who wins. We just want it to be over. But, we have to care.

I’m here to defend the process and encourage more discussion and more engagement in elections and other matters of civic importance. Even with all the imperfections, our political system is the best in the world. It is not only our right, but it is our duty, to educate ourselves on the issues and vote freely for the candidates of our choice. From local elections to the presidency, it matters who is in office. Our votes do matter.

In the past 60 days, results of the 2011 Indiana Civic Health Index were released. There’s been some media coverage on this report, including in this paper, but some findings need to be repeated over and over until we are able to influence change in civic engagement in this state.

First, a little background on the report. The Indiana Civic Health Index examines behaviors and attitudes of Hoosiers regarding civic life and explores resources and impediments that affect how residents of Indiana participate in civic life. Our state information is then combined with data from other states to produce America’s Civic Health Index.

The partners on this project include National Conference on Citizenship, Center on Congress, Indiana Bar Foundation, Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana University Northwest and the Hoosier State Press Association Foundation.

The report looks at engagement in various categories, such as joining an organization, volunteering, social connectedness that comes from spending time with family and neighbors, and voter registration and turnout. For this particular discussion, I’m going to concentrate on voter registration and turnout.

Indiana fares well in some areas of the report, but Indiana’s voter registration and turnout numbers are pathetic. There’s no nice way to say it. Indiana ranked 48th in the nation in voter turnout among residents in 2010, with a turnout rate of 39.4 percent, six percentage points lower than the national average of 45.5 percent, which is also unacceptable. In 2006, Indiana’s voter turnout was 45.5 percent.

Indiana ranked 43rd in the number of residents registered to vote, at 61.2 percent, down from 65.4 percent in 2006. With only a few exceptions, fewer people have voted in Indiana than nationally in every midterm election since 1974. In addition, Indiana ranked 48th in the frequency of its residents discussing politics.

You’re going to be hearing a lot more from me on civic engagement because I know I’m talking to influencers. We need to all get on the same page and try to effect some positive change in this area.

I don’t want to leave the impression that nothing is being done to try to improve these results. Many great programs exist to improve civic engagement. Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard has been active in this area. The Indiana Supreme Court runs Courts in the Classroom to help educators, students, historians and interested citizens learn more about the history and operation of Indiana’s judicial branch.

The Indiana Bar Foundation has been supporting programs since 1996, like We the People, the Citizen and the Constitution, the Indiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council and the United States Senate Youth Program, all designed to engage Hoosier students in the workings of government.

Many other worthwhile endeavors are taking place, but each of us needs to take an active role in leading by example and educating folks on the importance of civic engagement. Without taking sides, could there be a more important presidential election than the one coming up next year? What about the future of Indiana as we elect a new governor?

As this election cycle wraps up, it’s OK to take a short break, but there’s a lot of work to do between now and the next election. Your leadership, your civic engagement and your vote all matter. Please let me know what you think. We’ll work on this together.•
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Greg Morris is president of IBJ Media and publisher of the Indianapolis Business Journal, a sister publication of Indiana Lawyer. To comment on this column, send email to gmorris@ibj.com. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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