On Election Day, Sara Hill talks with her first-graders about doing something she's never done herself: voting.
The children's lessons in democracy don't get into the nitty gritty of electoral politics or candidates' stands on issues, of course. They're more about "voting to decide on two different things," Hill says.
Though the majority of Hoosier voters have voted at least once in their lives, Hill is hardly an exception: When local elections roll around, people stay away in droves. Only about 30 percent of eligible Indiana voters turned out for last year's general election.
Why doesn't Hill vote?
"In my opinion, I feel like not voting is better than making an uneducated vote," she said.
Hill, 35, lives with her husband and their toddler son in Noblesville, and she teaches full-time in the Carmel Clay Schools. She's busy, and it can take a lot of time to learn the nuances of the issues and candidates' stances on them.
"The health reform issues, I think that whole topic can be really confusing, and immigration.... all of those things are things that are familiar, but things I just don't feel like I understand and know enough about." Hill said.
Getting to the polls can be a hassle, too.
"As a teacher, you'd have to take a day off to even go vote," said Hill. "Sometimes it's the process of the polling place and being able to be there to actually physically vote." She's never really considered absentee or early voting options.
Growing up in South Bend, her parents voted, but she says they never really talked about politics around the dinner table.
Hill always wanted to work with little kids, so after graduating high school, she went to Bowling Green State University, where she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. She and her husband moved to Noblesville in 2009, in part so they could be closer to his family in Lebanon. She and her husband don't really bring up politics much.
She knows she will have a somewhat greater stake in the process when her son starts attending public school in Noblesville, but for now, politics on a federal, state and local level are off her radar.
"In my everyday life, I don't feel the effect of some of the laws and policies that are passed, so that's another reason that it doesn't interest me very much," Hill said.
And Noblesville's coming elections aren't exactly exciting. Republicans dominate the local government – there are no Democrats on the city council – and Republican Mayor John Ditslear is running for his fourth term. May's primaries have essentially decided November's results. Hill says it's easy to feel disconnected from the candidates.
"I feel like sometimes our officials get elected because of popularity, not because of what they stand for," Hill said.
Is it the candidates' responsibility to get people excited about their ideas? Or are people obligated to educate themselves about the candidates? Should the state provide more accessible voting options? Or do many voters just lack the initiative to go to the polls?
All questions I'm looking forward to examining as I follow Sara Hill leading up to the November elections. n
Jill Sheridan Poulos lives in Carmel with her husband and their two children. She is a reporter for 90.1 WFYI Public Media.