Tuesday’s primary continued a disappointing trend in Lake and Porter counties as voter turnout just barely cracked the low teens and left party officials struggling with the lack of voter engagement.

In Lake County, there were 41,510 ballots cast out of 362,561 registered voters in Tuesday’s primary, which resulted in an 11.45% voter turnout, according to Lake County Board of Elections and Registration data.

Voter turnout in Porter County for Tuesday’s primary election came in slightly better than Lake County at 13.87%. There were 18,983 votes cast for Tuesday’s election out of the 136,874 voters registered.

Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Wieser said he and other party members anticipated about a 12% turnout, so they weren’t far off.

“It’s disappointing, but it was not at all unexpected,” Wieser said.

On the Democratic primary ballot, voters had uncontested races for president, U.S Representative District 1, and governor, Wieser said. While there were two major contested state legislative races, the only other contested races were in county races for a commissioner, coroner and surveyor, he said.

“There wasn’t a lot to get people excited or interested in,” Wieser said.

Porter County Republican Party Chairman Mike Simpson said the contested Republican race for governor and county council likely contributed to the county’s higher voter turnout compared to Lake County.

But, overall, voter turnout in the county was “abysmal, disappointing and horrible,” Simpson said, especially given the fact that voters can vote early in-person and by mail.

While presidential elections typically have higher voter turnout, Simpson said some voters could have been discouraged that the 2024 presidential election is basically uncontested. But voters have to remember that local elected officials make decisions that impact their day-to-day lives, he said.

“This is their government, and I can’t decide why they don’t show interest in it,” Simpson said.

The lackluster turnout of 2024 echoes recent trends where either county has trouble cracking 20% when there isn’t a competitive presidential primary on the ballot.

In the 2023 municipal primary, Lake County voter turnout was 14.41% with 47,607 ballots cast out of 330,371 registered voters. In Porter County, the 2023 primary had 70,195 voters registered to vote and a total of 7,468 votes cast, representing a 10.62% turnout.

In Lake County, voter turnout was 12.69% during the 2022 primary election with 46,293 ballots cast out of 364,925 registered voters.

Porter County’s primary in 2022 saw 131,665 people registered to vote with 16.4% of those voters, or 21,781, cast their ballot in the election. There was no election in 2021.

The 2020 presidential election had the highest voter turnout of the 21st century, with 66.8% of citizens 18 years and older voting in that election, according to new voting and registration tables released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the 2020 primary election, Lake County voter turnout was 23.81% with 85,806 ballots cast out of 360,444 registered voters.

In Porter County that year there were 127,646 registered voters and 33,627 of those people voted in the 2020 primary. Voter turnout in 2020 was 26.34%.

Porter County exceeded the 2020 statewide voter turnout of 24%, while Lake County was within the range. But both counties paled in comparison to the national average of 66% in the 2020 presidential primary.

In the 2019 primary election, Lake County voter turnout was 15.06% with 43,898 ballots cast out of 291,542 registered voters.

Voter turnout in Porter County in 2019 was 15.46% with 12,126 of the 78,422 registered voters casting a ballot in that election.

Lake County Republican Party Chairman Randy Niemeyer said getting voters to the polls can be a challenge.

He said it’s important to go back to the pure basics of grassroots outreach to motivate voters to the polls.

“I’m a huge believer you’ve got to touch the voters and show them you care about them. Hopefully, that inspires them to come out and vote because as I view it, it’s a responsibility to our country to vote, not just a right,” Niemeyer said.

Niemeyer said he believes when candidates engage voters door to door and talk to them about the issues it helps bridge the gap and pull people back in the process.

“Some people are so disenfranchised by the toxicity of the environment (and they) stay away,” he said.

He said he’s trying to deliver a positive message and effort that over time can build turnout.

“You can’t convince some people who haven’t voted in a decade or more that this is the year to vote. It’s about consistent messaging with them,” Niemeyer said.

Don Craft, chairman of the Porter County Democratic Party said the largest problem right now is voter apathy. Voters are currently not excited by either party’s candidate at the top of the ballot.

“There are questions about Biden’s age and the other guy’s a rapist,” Craft said.

Craft said as party leader he has tried to focus the conversation on local issues.

“Local politics still matter. The people on the county council, your local commissioners, they affect you a lot more than a presidential race,” Craft said.

He blamed much of the voter apathy on the inability of politicians to have an exchange of ideas instead of closing off and not speaking to people from the other team.

Like his Republican counterpart in Lake County, Craft is working to build his party and help drive voter turnout. Both men are seeking to change the dominance in their counties of the opposite party and give voters more choice.

“In Porter County here, my first goal is to build the party and try to bring people into the party and get people activated,” Craft said, adding each person he has met wants to be part of the process for different reasons.

“I think when you actively try to reach out to people, people respond to that,” Craft said.



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