Buckle up, Bloomington, it’s Election Day!

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Arlington Heights Elementary School, where voters in the Bloomington 14 precinct cast their ballots shortly after polls opened at 6 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The polls for Bloomington’s municipal elections opened today “without incident,” according to an email sent out by Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne.

For a last-minute overview of candidates and the background for the cancelled elections in all but two of Bloomington’s six city council districts, check out The Beacon’s voter’s guide.

Here are some quick links to candidate profiles:

District 2

District 3

The Beacon will try to tour all of the nine polling locations for District 2 and District 3 today. Timestamped updates to this post will be filed from each polling place. Continue reading “Buckle up, Bloomington, it’s Election Day!”

Bloomington’s municipal elections: 12 hours left on Election Day to make up for light early voting

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Monroe County’s election board met on Monday evening at Election Central at 7th and Madison streets (Note the white board note: “Countdown to 2019 Municipal Elections 1 day”) The board’s business on Election Day Eve included certifying a list of 28 incomplete registrations. From left are the three election board members: Hal Turner, Carolyn Carolyn VandeWiele, and Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Brown. Behind the counter is deputy clerk Tressia Martin and election supervisor Karen Wheeler. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Early voting at Election Central in Bloomington’s municipal elections ended Monday at noon.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Polls are open for twelve hours, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Based on early voting totals, the lack of competition in citywide races and four of the six council districts looks like it could be having the kind of negative impact on turnout that was predicted, especially in District 3.

Compared to 2015’s numerical count of early vote totals, District 2 is down this year by 14 percent. District 3 is down 58 percent. Continue reading “Bloomington’s municipal elections: 12 hours left on Election Day to make up for light early voting”

Bloomington city council candidate forum: Indiana University connections

Last Monday (Oct. 29) all five candidates in Bloomington’s city council elections—held only in District 2 and District 3 this year—appeared on Indiana University’s campus. They participated in a forum hosted by The Civil Society at Indiana University. Moderators were students Meredith Karbowsky and Taylor Combs.

The event was held in Woodburn Hall, Room 004, in the lower level of the building, which features slate chalkboards and auditorium-style seats, bolted to the floor, with built-in swing-up tablet arms.

The venue itself got a mention in their introductory remarks from two of the candidates. District 3 independent candidate Marty Spechler told the group he is an emeritus professor of economics at the university—and he’d taught classes in the room. District 2 Republican candidate Andrew Guenther, a recent graduate of the school, said he was glad to be back in the room, where he’d just recently taken political science classes.

Guenther’s opponent in District 2, Democrat Sue Sgambelluri, also holds a degree from IU and works as development director for the college of arts and sciences. In District 3, the other two candidates, Democrat Ron Smith and independent Nick Kappas, also have connections to IU through degrees they earned there.

Most questions asked by moderators were either directly or indirectly connected to the university.

Candidates were asked how they would strike the balance between representing student interests and representing the interest of Bloomington locals. They were also asked how they would ensure student access to quality housing. Based on some recent shootings that did not prompt IU Notify alerts, candidates got a question about how they’d maintain and improve public safety in Bloomington.

Climate change was topic that candidates were asked about, which was not prompted by a university-specific connection.

Earlier reporting on the forum by The Beacon covered the topic of white supremacism as it relates to Bloomington’s farmers market.

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From left: District 2 candidates Andrew Guenther and Sue Sgambelluri; moderators Meredith Karbowsky and Taylor Combs; District 3 candidates Marty Spechler, Ron Smith, and Nick Kappas. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Continue reading “Bloomington city council candidate forum: Indiana University connections”

Early voting: Close race between District 2 and District 3

One of the points of pride at stake in Bloomington’s municipal elections this year is which city council district can produce a better turnout at the polls.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon) 

Through about 1 p.m. on Friday, early voting tallies made the race between District 2 and District 3 pretty much a dead heat: 113 for District 2 and 116 for District 3.

Election Central early voting, at 7th and Madison streets, continues Saturday (Nov. 2). Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

On Monday (Nov. 4) early voting continues from 8 a.m. to noon.

Election Day hours at precincts are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Voting precinct locations are posted on the Monroe County election board’s website.

No tallies are done for individual candidates until the polls close on Election Day.

Candidates are:

District 2

District 3

Continue reading “Early voting: Close race between District 2 and District 3”

Free parking in downtown Bloomington … for voters

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Election Central at 7th and Madison streets on Oct. 25, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The parking lot at Election Central in downtown Bloomington, at the corner of 7th and Madison streets, is now reserved for voters to park. Banners on both sides of the entrance say, “Voter Parking Only.” Continue reading “Free parking in downtown Bloomington … for voters”

Monroe County Green Party leaders: “We’re not asking you to join the party, we’re asking you to help organize it.”

On Wednesday night at the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL), around a dozen and a half people attended the first public meeting of the county’s local Green Party caucus.

Among the reasons that organizer Randy Paul and others gave for wanting to establish the Green Party in Bloomington and the rest of  Monroe County is a desire to provide some competition to the Democratic Party. Democrats hold all 11 city offices in Bloomington. Continue reading “Monroe County Green Party leaders: “We’re not asking you to join the party, we’re asking you to help organize it.””

Election equipment vendors pitch wares to Monroe County officials

Monroe County is looking to get some new election equipment. The 2020 budget adopted last Tuesday by the county council includes a general obligation bond, out of which around $1 million could be used on the purchase of new voting machines. The council’s decision on the bond issuance isn’t expected until its November meeting.

On Monday afternoon, four different vendors pitched their wares to county officials as part of their response to the RFP (request for proposals) that’s been issued by the county. The RFP says the county is looking either to lease or purchase the equipment.

Vendors on hand to demonstrate their voting machines at the courthouse on Monday were: Hart Intercivic, out of Austin, Texas;  Election Systems & Software (ES&S), out of Omaha, Nebraska; Unisyn Voting Systems  out of Vista, California; and MicroVote General Corporation from Indianapolis.

Proposals from vendors have to be turned in to the board of county commissioners by Oct. 22. The timeline in the RFP is described as a “best estimate.” After possible interviews, the evaluation of the proposals is planned for Nov. 2. A decision by commissioners could be made at their regular meeting on Nov. 6.

Continue reading “Election equipment vendors pitch wares to Monroe County officials”

Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.”

Carolyn VanddeWiele, a Democrat who chairs Monroe County’s three-member election board, led the group at its meeting last Thursday through its routine final preparations for the Nov. 5 municipal elections.

Part of that prep included some announcements of key dates. Oct. 7 is the last day to register to vote in Bloomington municipal elections. And the first day for early voting is Oct. 21.

Both main items on the agenda reflected the fact that this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington will be held in just two out of the city’s council districts—District 2 and District 3.

One agenda item, approval of the official legal notice, called out District 2 and District 3 as the only districts where elections will be held. That’s because of an election board decision made at its Aug. 1 meeting. The board based its decision on the fact that the city-wide races for mayor, clerk and councilmember at large, are all uncontested—a situation that’s unprecedented in Bloomington—and the races in the other four districts are uncontested. Continue reading “Election board OKs final prep for reduced November elections: “I … recommend that we charge both parties with letting their voters know.””

Bloomington city council candidates asked: What are you going to do to combat white supremacy in your support of the arts?

widview group xy try IMG_3410Tuesday night at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, across from the derelict 4th Street parking garage, the audience filled a bit less than half the 132-seat auditorium. The performance was a political one, a two-act play of sorts, directed by Danielle McClelland, on behalf of a new arts group in town, called Arts Forward Bloomington.

Of the seven actors in Tuesday’s 90-minute drama, four are candidates in the two contested races for city council. The other three have their city council races already won, by default, with no opposition. District 2 and District 3 are the only areas of the city where elections will be held on Nov. 5.

Appearing on Tuesday for District 2 were Republican Andrew Guenther and Democrat Sue Sgambelluri. For the District 3 race, Democrat Ron Smith and independent Nick Kappas appeared; independent Marty Spechler did not attend.

McClelland said all candidates, including incumbents for clerk and mayor, were invited.

As executive director of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, McClelland is well-practiced in the duty of introducing a show. She told the audience that candidates would get five minutes each to respond to some questions, which they’d been given ahead of time. That was to be followed by questions from audience members, written on notecards.

Tuesday’s forum did not draw out much in the way of fundamental differences in candidates’ policies on public support of the arts. They all acknowledged the important threads that the arts weave into Bloomington’s social and civic fabric.

Their remarks featured a few mentions of the plan to expand the convention center. An expanded center could be a potential location for public art installations and a performance venue, they said. The night before, elected officials had gathered to meet about the planned convention center expansion—the existing one is a couple of blocks to the west of the Waldron Center.

The only overt politicking from a candidate came in response to the final question of the night on Tuesday, from the audience: What are Arts Forward Bloomington and the city council going to do to specifically to combat white supremacy in their support of the arts?
Continue reading “Bloomington city council candidates asked: What are you going to do to combat white supremacy in your support of the arts?”

Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year

The headline for this piece is unlikely to surprise anyone with just a scant knowledge of local Bloomington politics or national election trends.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Still, it’s worth adding some precision to some general ideas.  Bloomington’s quadrennial municipal elections—held the year before presidential contests—attract few voters. And those who do vote are older than average.

Based on turnout in past years, I think maybe 1,500 voters will participate in Bloomington’s Nov. 5 elections. That’s about 3 percent of city voters in the registered voter file provided by the Monroe County election supervisor’s office in early July.

Based on participation in past elections, more than half of those 1,500 voters will be older than 60. That’s almost three decades older than the average registered voter in Bloomington.

It’s unfair, of course, to compare an estimated maximum of 1,500 voters this November to the number of registered voters in all of Bloomington. That’s because elections will be held in just two of six city council districts this year. The other four district seats on the city council are uncontested. Also uncontested are races for all city-wide offices—mayor, city clerk and member-at-large city council seats.

Adjusting for just the roughly 16,000 registered voters in District 2 and District 3 combined, an estimated maximum turnout of 1,500 works out to around 9 percent. That doesn’t add up to a point of civic pride.

For District 2, my working estimate for maximum turnout is about 500 voters. I think if one of the two candidates gets more than 250 votes, that will be enough to win the seat. For District 3, I don’t think the turnout will be more than about 1,000 voters. I think if any of the three candidates gets more than 375 votes, that will be enough to win.

For both districts, I think the average age of voters this November will be older than 60.

After the jump, I’ll lay out the numbers behind those estimates. Continue reading “Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year”