Monroe voter turnout respectable, local party leaders say

Herald Times: Though voter turnout this fall didn’t break records from 2008, local party leaders said it still was good.

Overall, a little more than 53 percent of registered voters in Monroe county cast a ballot during the general election, either before or on Election Day, according to numbers provided by the county clerk’s office.

“I would not be too upset with those turnout numbers for the reason that a lot of our voter rolls aren’t cleared as much as a lot of places,” said William Ellis, chairman of the Monroe County Republican Party, calling the turnout respectable.

Mark Fraley, who heads the county’s Democratic Party, agreed.

“In Monroe County, we had fairly strong turnout numbers, and I think that’s something we can be really proud of,” he said.

Of the 82 precincts throughout the county’s 11 townships, eight had less than 25 percent of registered voters cast a ballot.

Another 28 precincts had less than 50 percent turnout.

The remaining 54 precincts had more than half of registered voters cast a vote, but no precinct had participation of 75 percent or more.

The highest turnout in any precinct was 73.8 percent in Perry 18 on the southeast side of Bloomington.

The lowest came in Richland 9 on the northwest side of the city, where just 13.3 percent of registered voters cast a ballot — though, there are only 15 people registered to vote in that precinct.

Turnout was higher, generally, in townships with more rural areas and generally lower in Bloomington and Perry townships, which cover most of the city.

One exception was Polk Township in the southeastern most portion of the county, which saw just 15.2 percent of registered voters in its single precinct cast a ballot.

Looking just at the numbers, 11 precincts had more than 1,000 voters, though 71 have more than 1,000 registered voters and five have more than 2,000 registered voters.

Those are all facts and figures that the county’s two major parties will examine and use to inform them for future elections.

Ellis said his party’s main battle is getting out numbers and getting its message out to enough people in a predominantly blue county.

“Even if we run the board on the townships, which we did a pretty good township outreach this year, the Bloomington and Perry townships are quite large ... and, quite honestly, they’re pretty deep blue,” Ellis said. “It’s just that the city of Bloomington comprises so many voters.”

One interesting takeaway for Ellis was that a down-ballot candidate got the most of any Republican on the ballot in Monroe County. Ann Collins, who ran for county treasurer, got about 5,300 more votes in the county than President-elect Donald Trump, a gap that usually favors the top of the ticket.

“What that’s telling me is that with the right message, we can make inroads,” Ellis said, adding Collins was one of the local Republican candidates who focused not just on Election Day but also on early voting outreach. “There is response to our message. We just have to get the message out even more.”

He said the key to that will be getting all hands on deck and stopping the defeatist mentality that Republicans can’t win in Monroe County, even as the party sweeps statewide elections.

For Democrats, there’s a different issue, as they watch their candidates win local races but lose as contests expand to include more of the state.

Fraley said local results were reflective of Democratic efforts to get out the vote, with hundreds of volunteers in the field and many more making phone calls.

Party members “really put our all into this election,” Fraley said.

But though the local party “did a lot more right than we did wrong,” there’s always room for improvement, Fraley said.

“We’re always looking to be able to expand our operations,” he said.

That will mean engaging more people in politics, Fraley said, whether it’s through better use of student volunteers or reaching out to low-income voters, who tend to be more transient, in more effective ways.

There’s no “silver bullet solution,” he said, but there are always new things to explore.

And it’s crucial do to so, because even though not everyone sees it, the reality is that politics affect many aspects of everyday life, he said.

“Our job as a political party is to make people see that reality before Election Day and not after,” Fraley said.

Ellis agreed there’s a need for more education.

“We always say get out and vote, but I really start needing to have a caveat: Get out and have an informed vote,” he said.

Monroe County voter turnout, by township

Bean Blossom — 70.5 percent

Benton — 72.2 percent

Bloomington — 43 percent

Clear Creek — 68.2 percent

Indian Creek — 67.7 percent

Perry — 56.1 percent

Polk — 15.2 percent

Richland — 60 percent

Salt Creek — 73.1 percent

Van Buren — 62.2 percent

Washington — 73.1 percent

*Indian Creek, Polk, Salt Creek and Washington townships all comprise a single precinct.