Friday, November 6, 2015

Indianapolis Had Much Lower Turnout in 1995 than 2015

Following Tuesday night's election results out of Indianapolis we were swamped with stories about how voter turnout was the worst ever, or at least in recent history.  But was it?  No, it wasn't.

The 1995 Indianapolis Mayor's race featured Republican Steve Goldsmith running for re-election against Democrat Z. Mae Jimison.  Jimison was never a favorite of the Democratic establishment and the party made little effort to help her in the election.  (Very much like
this year and the Republicans lack of assistance to their nominee, Chuck Brewer.)  The lack of effort was noted by the voters, when only 116,307 voters came to the polls. 

In contrast, 150,451 voters came to the polls in 2015.  That's an increase in the number of voters by 29.3% at the same time the adult population in Marion County increased only 10.9% (631,557 in 1995 to 700,682 in 2015).  How then did 2015 get labeled as the lowest turnout ever?

It is because turnout is based on total registrations not the adult population in that area.  Registration numbers in recent years have become grossly inflated.  The reason is that, in 1993, the Democratic Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act.  The bill, dubbed "The Motor Voter Bill," not only allowed for easier registration, it eliminated automatic purges for non-voting.   While the law and its progeny allowed counties and states to clean up their voter registration rolls that became increasingly filled with dead voters and those who had moved, that process has proven to be cumbersome and expensive. Indiana is one of the worst states at keeping its voter registration rolls clean, and has been a target of litigation because of it.

In 1995, there were 438,755 voters registered in Marion County, 69.5% of the adult population.  By 2015, that number had soared to 663,209 or 94.5%. 

Yes, supposedly 94.5% of adults who live in Marion County are registered to vote.  Does anyone actually believe that?  Well, believe it or not, our voter turnout rates are based on the assumption that 94.5% of the adults who live in Marion County could have went to the polls on November 3rd and cast a vote.

If you look at voting turnout compared to the adult population ("real turnout"), you see a different story when it comes to registration.  While 2015 is definitely a low turnout year (21.5%), turnout in 1995 was actually much lower (18.4%).  The highest real turnout in the last 25 years was in 1991 (32.8%), followed by 1999 (30.6%) and 2011 (26.5%).

Contrary to Democrats' claims there doesn't seem to be any turnout trend associated with Indiana photo ID requirement (passed in 2005 but not implemented until 2008) or other supposed restrictions on voting. The only thing apparent from the data is that registration has soared at the same time as official turnout (as opposed to real turnout) has decreased.  Someday the media might connect the two.

Here is a table on the data I collected.  I did not include all the population data I used in my calculations.  The census data though is readily available with a google search.

Year Total Voters Reg. Reg. Rate Total Vote Turnout Real Turnout
2015 663,209 94.5% 150,451 22.7% 21.5%
2011 604,429 88.5% 181,220 30.0% 26.5%
2007 630,993 95.8% 181,220 26.3% 25.2%
2003 561,047 86.4% 150,440 26.8% 23.2%
1999 532,736 82.8% 196,983 37.0% 30.6%
1995 438,755 69.5% 116,307 26.5% 18.4%
1991 417,502 68.6% 199,719 47.8% 32.8%


Anonymous said...

Duh Media left the dot connecting business decades ago.

Anonymous said...

1995 was Goldsmith's second term.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 4:10, thanks for catching that. You are, of course, correct. I fixed it.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis. Interesting that a higher turnout results in a substantial resounding voter reaction to the deep stains corrupt Republican Greg Ballard spread upon his Party and virtually all of its candidates through the numerous illegal and no doubt unethical scam perpetrated upon the people... unstopped by the election we've recently been informed.