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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Local campaigns hinge on crucial issues

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On Nov. 6 citizens in the Marion County cities of Indianapolis, Lawrence, Beech Grove, Speedway and Southport will vote for candidates running for mayor and City-County Council.

Although local elections typically don’t generate as much interest as those on the federal and state level, citizens are being encouraged to make their voices heard and select the officials who deal with taxes, public safety, housing, sanitation, sidewalks, streets and other aspects of urban life.

Turnout for the primary election in May was a dismal 6.5 percent, but local officials are expecting an increase.

“We’re anticipating a heavier turnout this fall than we usually experience in a municipal election because there appears to be renewed interest in local government for various reasons,” said Marion County Clerk Beth White, who is in charge of organizing local elections.

She noted that her office has already noticed an increase in residents filing to vote via absentee ballot.

“Holding an election with low turnout is like organizing a party no one comes out to, so we hope everyone will participate,” she said.

The two high profile races in the county are the campaigns for mayor in Indianapolis and Lawrence. In Indianapolis Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson is facing Republican Greg Ballard and Libertarian Fred Peterson. In Lawrence Democratic Mayor Deborah Cantwell is facing a strong challenge from Republican Paul Ricketts.

Candidates are running to fill 25 seats on the Indianapolis City-County Council and an unprecedented 15 African-Americans are running for at-large and district seats.

Local Democratic and Republican leaders are working to tip the balance of the council in their party’s favor, which is controlled by Democrats by a slim 15-14 majority.

Republicans hope to respond to anger over rising crime and taxes.

“Residents have been forced to pay record tax levels yet are forced to live with record murder, theft and violent crime rates,” said Marion County Republican chairman Tom John. “It’s time for a change.”

Marion County Democratic Chairman Mike O’Connor, however, believes his party has a proven record of doing what’s necessary to move the city forward.

“Mayor Peterson and our council candidates have remained focused on the real issues that are important to our community—fighting crime, reducing taxes and strengthening our neighborhoods,” he said.

Memories of the primary election, which included many absent poll workers and faulty voting machines are still fresh. White is assuring voters that everything possible has been done to ensure an efficient procedure on Election Day.

“We’re feeling cautiously optimistic that we will have a better election day,” she said.

White added that since May her office has worked with a City-County Council committee and citizens groups to extend training courses for poll workers, enhance communication to make sure those workers actually show up at the polls on Election Day and upgrade the technology of voting equipment.

However, White warned that the idea of a perfect election is not a reality.

“Elections require thousands of people to participate in them and someone will oversleep, someone will get sick or their car will break down on the way to the polls,” she said. “But we have a back up plan to make sure that we have contingents for whatever problems may occur.”

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