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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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