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Opposing Carmel council candidates meet at polling place as voters push turnout rate higher  

By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

 

Among the steady stream of cars entering and exiting the Orchard Park Presbyterian Church, Peter Wilska parked his motorcycle, adjusted his New York Yankees baseball cap and prepared to vote.

 

The native New Yorker who moved to Indiana because of his job building racing cars is a staunch Democrat who votes “religiously.” His youngest son, sporting a map of blond curls, was also at Orchard church to cast his ballot for the very first time.

 

Wilska said he pays more attention to national politics but still votes in municipal elections because all the issues and fights that entangle Congress start locally. He said he is glad that Carmel appears to be shiftinga little to the left politically.  

 

“I’ll never vote for another Republican in my life,” Wilska said. “I’ll do anything to prevent Republicans from getting into office.” Then he stopped and clarified, “Well, not anything. I’m a Progressive, not a radical.”  

 

By 2:30 p.m., the Orchard church polling site had tallied 705 voters or about 22% of those registered in that precinct. A poll worker was optimistic the flow of voters would continue and push the turnout to 30% or higher. 

 

Outside the doors, the two opposing candidates for the south central district on the Carmel City Council were both campaigning just a few feet from each other. The two were collegial and friendly and complimentary of each other’s skills and commitment to Carmel.  

 

Tony Green, the Republican incumbent, has served seven years and was redistricted into the south central district. He said he was not going to run again but changed his mind when long-time mayor James Brainard decided to retire. Not only is the mayor’s seat open but six of the nine council seats are open with no incumbent running. 

 

Green sees the changes in leadership as energizing voters who maybe in the past, he said, had been “too content or felt disengaged.”

 

Irvine, the Democratic challenger, said she decided to run after working on several local political campaigns and completing her master’s degree in public affairs with a concentration in environment policy and sustainability.

 

As voters were entering the polling site, Irvine said, “Thank you for voting. I’m Jessica Irvine. I’d love your vote.”

 

Green welcomed voters while wearing a bright green t-shirt. Also, he had his mother, Nancy Green, in tow. She had travel from Florida to help her son campaign and had been visiting polling sites with him since 6 a.m., having eaten only a doughnut that, she thought, Irvine’s mom had given her.

 

Irvine said her mother was at another polling site campaigning for her. Then counting on her fingers, she named her parents, brothers, cousins and grandmothers as giving her a sure 10 votes. 

 

In the parking lot, Wilska’s son said he was not allowed to vote because he had not registered. The elder Wilska was bewildered, replying he had registered when he got his driver’s license but his son shrugged and said, the registration had not gone through.

 

Wilska was disappointed for his son but he still went inside to vote.

 

“You can’t bitch if you don’t vote,” Wilska said.  

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‘Everything starts local for me’: Indianapolis voters eager to have voices heard on Election Day

By Dwight Adams

The Indiana Citizen

Nov. 7, 2023

Eric White, a pastor at Nu Corinthian Baptist Church, says he hasn’t missed an election since he turned 18.

And he kept his record perfect by voting in the city’s municipal elections on Tuesday at Eagle Creek Community Church on Indianapolis’ Northwest side, where a trickle of voters arrived just before noon at the slower-paced polling place.

“I’m very involved,” White said after casting his ballot. “It’s important to vote. People talk about what’s happening, but you can’t make a change unless you put someone in there who you think will make a difference.”

Eric White, a pastor at Nu Corinthian Baptist Church, said he is "very involved" in the community and has never missed an election since turning 18. He cast his vote Tuesday at the polling place at Eagle Creek Community Church on Indianapolis' Northwestside.

Clayton Allen, who voted at the Speedway Municipal Center on Crawfordsville Road, said he also makes an effort to vote, even in primaries, because he wants to “make my voice heard, just have a say in my town.”

Kathy Mummert also made sure to vote and cast her vote in Speedway because “something’s got to change in the city of Indianapolis. Too much crime, too many gangs, too many guns.

“I came out today to hopefully make that happen.”

 

Kathy Mummert is one of the voters exiting the polling place at the Speedway Municipal Center, after casting her vote Tuesday. Regarding voting, she said, "I think it's my duty, so I hope it makes a difference."

The Speedway polling place was busy around the lunch hour. Campaign workers, some holding signs, greeted voters outside the municipal building’s entrance, which was surrounded by campaign signs. Inside the building, about a dozen voters waited to vote after winding their way down the stairs or riding on an elevator to take their spot in line outside a conference room filled with voting machines and poll workers.

Dax Thomas, a poll worker at the municipal center, said word was getting out about the efficiency at that site with only about a five-minute wait to vote. He said about 800 to 1,000 people typically vote at that polling place, and they were keeping pace with those numbers on Tuesday.

“We’re having a nice turnout here. We’re getting them in and out,” Thomas said. “The pace is kind of consistent, with very few lulls.”

Thomas also said there were no problems with the voting machines, and people were heeding the advice beforehand to make sure to bring a photo ID with them.

Some people were being asked to fill out forms if they had changed their address since the last time they had voted, he said, but he added that the procedure was “easy enough” and they were still able to vote.

Gabriele Hysong, a poll worker at the Eagle Creek Community Church location, said they hadn’t seen any voting glitches either, although they had to turn away one man because he had forgotten to bring a photo ID.

She said they had seen 184 voters by about 11:20 a.m., with more expected around the noon hour and by the end of the work day.

“I take the day off to do this,” Hysong said of her work at the polls, adding that she has helped out at other poll sites, too. “I try to do this every time. It’s the least you can do.”

The lawn outside the Eagle Creek Community Church polling place on Indianapolis' Northwestside was festooned with campaign signs on Election Day on Tuesday, including signs shown at the far right for Indianapolis' incumbent Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Jefferson Shreve.

Demetrice Hicks, another poll worker at that site, said he has been involved in local political campaigns and caucuses for the past 10 years. 

“People are excited about taking part in the process,” he said of voters, adding that some of them even thanked the poll workers for their service.

“We need representation,” Hicks said of why he likes to get involved in local politics. “We need leaders who are going to provide adequate representation for the people they serve—and not just special interest groups.”

Tammy May, who said she works for the state, also said she makes a point to vote in every election, even primaries.

“Everything starts local for me,” she said outside the church polling place after casting her vote. “You’ve got to be involved in your community. You’ve got to get some skin in the game.”

Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, wrote this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including The Louisville Courier Journal.

Election Assistance

Campaign volunteers at Lawrence firehouse greet voters and debate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches 

By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

By midmorning, the stream of voters going into the polling site at Lawrence Firehouse 37 on North German Church Road was steady, with one or two voters coming as one or two voters left.

The voter check-in table and voting machines were set up in the truck bays. Poll workers said of the 205 residents who had voted by 10:13 a.m., all had been very pleasant. One poll worker noted some residents had brought babies and were educating the infants about what to do on Election Day.

Outside, campaign volunteers for the mayoral candidates greeted and thanked the voters. The contest is between Democrat Deborah Whitfield and Republican Dave Hofmann, who are both running since Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier is stepping down after serving two terms. 

Jerome Stanford and Wallace Turner, members of the carpenters’ union, had been at the firehouse since shortly before 6 a.m. to show their support for Whitfield. Stanford was holding a wooden pole with a Whitfield placard attached.

“Good morning, thank you for coming out,” Stanford greeted one voter. “You see the sign, right?”

Randy Warman and David and Doreen Loyal were wearing Hofmann t-shirts and holding stacks of handbills. None of the voters took any campaign materials, but a few stopped to say hello.

“This is exciting,” Warman said of the election. “If you care about the community, what better way can you really see and hear from the residents?”

The Hofmann volunteers talked about their candidate’s experience and vision for the city. The Whitfield volunteers said their support was not linked to the political party but rather, they liked her ideas. 

Shortly after 9 a.m., Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett arrived and, after greeting the Democratic volunteers, stood near the door to the firehouse to meet the voters. He shook hands with several, hugged a few and posed as a couple of voters took pictures. 

A cheer erupted from the small crowd when a young woman arrived to vote for the very first time.

“First-time voter,” one woman announced excitedly. 

When not discussing politics among themselves or thanking voters, Warman and David Loyal said the conversation strayed into trading health tips and a debate over the best way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The sandwich discourse even spread over to Stanford and Turner who, according to Warman, provided their input.

While they disagreed about the candidates and, perhaps, peanut butter sandwiches, all the volunteers were steadfast about the importance of voting.

Warman said even as some voters might be turned off by some of the fighting between the current mayor and the city council, participating in elections was “absolutely” worth the effort.

“It’s necessary we do this,” Warman said. “I kind of like the life of an election and how it brings things up.”

Stanford said educating voters was the best way to counter the “my vote doesn’t count” attitude that keeps many Hoosiers away from the polls. He noted less than 50% of registered voters had turned out for previous elections and races ended up being decided by just a handful of votes.

“You think your vote doesn’t count, it does,” Stanford said. “It’s your right. It’s very important.”