Primed for election: After months of campaigns, time to decide

Today is Election Day, and the final opportunity for registered voters in Bartholomew County to have a say in the many important races that will be decided on the local, state and national levels.

Polls will be open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 18 vote centers on Election Day.

Notably, Hoosiers will help choose a new president, pick a new governor, decide races for the U.S. House and Senate, elect state lawmakers and decide local races for county council, county commissioner, coroner and school board.

State and nation

Two-term President Barack Obama is prohibited by law from seeking a third term. His successor, who will be the 45th president, is expected to be either the first female president, Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, or a candidate who would be one of just a handful to become president without every having previously held elected political office, Republican Party nominee Donald Trump. Either would follow the country’s first black president.

The most recent candidate elected president with no prior political experience was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was elected the 34th president in 1952 after serving as supreme commander of Allied Forces in World War II and supreme commander of NATO. Other examples include Herbert Hoover, William Howard Taft, Ulysses S. Grant and Zachary Taylor.

A Trump victory would give Columbus a White House connection. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP nominee for vice president, was born in Columbus, grew up in the city and is a graduate of Columbus North High School.

Pence ended his gubernatorial re-election bid in mid-July to become Trump’s running mate, ensuring that Hoosiers will elect the state’s 51st governor. That is expected to be either John Gregg, the Democratic nominee and former Indiana House speaker, or Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, the Republican nominee.

The presidential and gubernatorial races have been among the most hotly contested. Another is the U.S. Senate race between Republican Todd Young, who decided against seeking re-election in 9th district of the House of Representatives, and Democrat Evan Bayh, the former Indiana governor and U.S. senator. Both are vying for the seat being vacated by Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who is retiring. Until a redistricting change in 2012, Young had represented a portion of Bartholomew County.

Local impact

On the local level, voters will elect candidates to the county’s executive and fiscal bodies, choose school board members, pick a new coroner and choose state lawmakers who represent Bartholomew County.

Seven candidates are competing for three county council at-large seats: Democrats Pam Clark, Lynne Fleming and Diane Hawes; Republicans Bill Lentz, Evelyn Pence and Matt Miller; and Libertarian Josh Brown. Lentz and Pence are incumbents.

According to Indiana law, the council is defined as the county’s fiscal body and has the final decision regarding such affairs. Among its duties are:

  • Approving annual operating budgets of all government offices and agencies
  • Establishing salaries, wages, per diem rates and other compensation for all officials and employees
  • Fixing tax rates and establishing levies on all county property to raise needed budgetary funds
  • Authorizing expenditures of county money

Bartholomew County has three commissioners. Two of the seats are up for election, but only once race is contested: Democrat Brad Woodcock is challenging Republican incumbent Rick Flohr for District 3. All registered voters can vote in that race.

According to Indiana law, the commissioners are defined as the county’s executive board, and they are elected to four-year terms. Some of their duties are:

  • Controlling, maintaining and supervising county property, including courthouses, jails and public offices
  • Supervising construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and county buildings
  • Appointing people to fill positions on boards, commissions and committees and choosing certain department heads

Other notable races this year include:

  • County coroner: Republican Clayton Nolting vs. Democrat Paula Rothrock. The winner from among the two political newcomers will replace Larry Fisher, who did not seek re-election.
  • Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Board: Incumbent Polly Verbanic vs. James Persinger for District 3, incumbent Pat Bryant vs. Tim Woods for District 5, and incumbent Jeff Caldwell vs. Dennis White for District 7. School board races are nonpartisan.
  • Indiana House District 59: Incumbent Republican Milo Smith vs. Democrat Bob Pitman.

Straight-ticket change

Voters will need to be aware of a change to straight-ticket voting when casting their ballots. According to a new law, anyone voting a straight-party ticket also will have to vote for individuals in at-large races with multiple candidates, such as Bartholomew County Council. No longer will a straight-ticket vote be applied toward candidates in those types of races. Individual votes would also have to be cast for school board, which is nonpartisan.

The reason for the change was that evidence showed that inconsistent categorizing of straight-ticket ballots by voting machine vendors raised questions of whether some tallies reflected the intent of the voters. State legislators debated how to resolve the issue before coming up with this solution during the Indiana General Assembly.

Connect with The Republic

Follow Election Day developments in Bartholomew County online at therepublic.com, then check back after the polls close at 6 p.m. Tuesday and throughout the evening for voting updates as they come in.

Share your election day stories with The Republic by email at editorial@therepublic.com

What you should know

Here are things every voter should know before casting a ballot in the general election:

  • An Indiana driver’s license, Indiana photo ID card, United States passport, military ID and a state university issued photo ID can be accepted to vote. An out-of-state driver’s license cannot be accepted. The local Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch, 745 Schnier Drive, will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Election Day for people who need a driver’s license or state ID card.
  • According to state law, a voter is limited to only two minutes to vote on a voting machine. Each voter should review his or her ballot ahead of time to reduce confusion and any questions. A voter can go online at indianavoters.com and click on “Who’s on your Ballot,” to review their ballot.
  • Voters do not have to stay at the same vote center and wait if there is a long line. They can go to any of the 18 vote centers and vote. A map will be available at each vote center to show where other vote centers are located.
  • Columbus Police Department will have extra patrols of officers on Election Day available, and be just a short distance from most voting centers to assure voters that if they experience any issues they will be handled swiftly.
  • Voting machines are not connected to the Internet.

— Source: Bartholomew County Clerk Jay Phelps

Author photo
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.