History shows one vote can mean a lot 

  • Courtesy of the Indiana Secretary of State's Office

By Tim Grimes
The Statehouse File

With an Oct. 9 deadline looming, the Indiana secretary of state's office has released new television and radio ads that emphasize the importance of every ballot in an effort to encourage Hoosiers to register to vote.

The office will spend roughly $385,000 on the voter outreach campaign, which is playing in markets throughout the state. The script will change in the weeks leading to Election Day to an effort to encourage Hoosiers to go to the polls.

click to enlarge numberofregisteredhoosiers.jpg

The ad "portrays how one Hoosier's vote made a significant impact on our country," said Valerie Kroeger, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office.

Voting starts with registration and isn't possible without it. Those who've voted in recent years and haven't moved are likely already registered. But those who are uncertain can go to IndianaVoters.com to find out.

That's also where Hoosiers can find out where to register, find their polling places and update their registrations.

Four years ago — prompted in part by a contested Democratic presidential primary and interest in Democrat Barack Obama's campaign — registrations in Indiana shot up to more than 4.5 million voters. That was 5 percent higher than in 2004, the previous presidential election.

In 2010, however, registrations dropped to 4.3 million voters. And Kroeger said the pace is slower this year, as well.

But the secretary of state's ad aims to show that every Hoosier can make a difference by first registering and then voting. It tells the "strange but true" short story of Henry Shoemaker, a farm hand from DeKalb County who cast the deciding vote for state representative Madison Marsh in 1842.

At the time, United States senators were elected by state representatives rather than state residents. Direct election of senators would come with the 17th Amendment in 1913.

But in 1842, Madison Marsh was the tie-breaking vote to elect U.S. Sen. Edward Henegan to represent Indiana. Then, Henegan's vote in the U.S. Senate was the deciding vote to authorize the nation's war with Mexico.

After defeating Mexico, the United States obtained territory that now makes up the states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington and Oregon.

"So if you don't think your vote counts, think again," the ad concludes.

The state is paying for the ad with money from the Help America Vote Act, a federal law approved in 2002 to help states with election procedures. In part, the law is a response to the 2000 election, during which more than 2 million votes weren't counted because machines registered either no votes or multiple votes.

Tim Grimes is a reporter for The Statehouse File, a news service powered Franklin College journalism students and faculty.


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