Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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May 5, 2012

Senate race not generating early voting

Indianapolis — Indiana’s hotly contested Republican Senate primary race has generated more than $12 million in campaign spending, including a record-topping $4 million in outside dollars.

The intra-party fight between incumbent U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and his challenger, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, has also attracted the rapt attention of the national news media who’ve dubbed it the marquee race to watch.

But so far, all that money and media coverage hasn’t made voters eager to vote, according to one indicator: Early voting — including the number of absentee ballots requested by Hoosier voters for Tuesday’s primary — is down significantly from years past.

“We’re way behind,” said Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, who serves as the state’s chief election officer.

No one expected a repeat of the blow-out numbers in 2008, when then candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were in a virtual arm-wrestling match for the Democratic presidential nomination. The state set a record for primary voting - early, absentee, and otherwise.

But this year’s early voting numbers are lagging behind the 2010 and 2006 primary voting numbers as well.

As of May 1 — just past the deadline for applying for an absentee ballot by mail - 48,946 Hoosiers had requested an absentee ballot for Tuesday’s primary election.

That’s about 30,000 less than at the same point two years ago, when 79,228 Hoosiers had requested an absentee ballot for the 2010 primary election. In 2006, more than 61,000 Hoosiers cast the their primary ballot by absentee vote.

Lawson cast her vote early, by absentee ballot, last weekend since she plans to be busy Tuesday visiting vote centers and monitoring the election. She’s not sure why others aren’t following suit.

But some people who study politics think there is combination of forces at work, ranging from the lack of contested races to the revulsion of voters.

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