Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

February 7, 2014

MARK BENNETT: HJR-3 referendum could draw voters off sidelines

Voters ages 18 to 29 could impact other races.

(Continued)

Who are these voters?

“The demographic that might turn out, that would not otherwise, might be young people,” Downs said. In 2010, just 20.9 percent of eligible young voters, those 18 to 29 years old, went to the polls, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. When they do vote, they lean Democratic. Sixty percent of young voters supported President Obama twice. In 2012, 79 percent of young people voted against a similar same-sex marriage ban in Minnesota.

Republicans, the party forwarding the legislation to amend the Indiana Constitution, hold super-majority control of both chambers of the Legislature; all Indiana House seats and half in the Senate are on the 2014 ballot. So are all nine of Indiana’s U.S. House seats, of which Republicans occupy seven. Obviously, the Republicans’ Hoosier supporters already routinely vote, hence their dominance. Democrats, who have opposed HJR-3 in the current session of the Indiana General Assembly, expect the increased voter turnout to largely support their position, Downs said.

“Whether it makes a difference in the other races remains to be seen,” he added.

The additional voters stirred by the divisive referendum, if it moves to the ballot, don’t represent one single ideological block, though. For example, Freedom Indiana, a business-backed coalition fighting to stop the amendment on civil-rights grounds and because it paints Indiana as unwelcoming, “is not just a bunch of Democrats,” Downs pointed out.

Along with young voters, and social and economic liberals who may normally sit out midterm elections, libertarians and fiscal conservatives who oppose the same-sex marriage ban may also be lured off the sidelines. If so, they may vote against the ban, but vote for Republicans in Statehouse and congressional races. Because the remapping of Indiana congressional districts favors incumbents, upsets in those races are less probable. In the 8th District, incumbent Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon has a GOP primary opponent but no Democratic challenger yet. On Wednesday, Jessica Martin of the Indiana Democratic Party said, “We will have a candidate for the 8th soon.”

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