Primary Matters: Indiana counts (for once)


Against all odds, it appears that this May, for the first time since 1968, Indiana’s presidential primary will actually mean something. That’s because the race between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is a virtual dead heat, with neither candidate likely to lock up the nomination until Democrats meet for their convention in Denver Aug. 25-28.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, well … there are some dandy local races.

For years, Hoosiers have complained to no avail about the late date of their primary elections. Having the presidential races wrapped up by the time we get to vote not only means we don’t have a say in who the nominees get to be, it also just about guarantees that candidates overlook Indiana during their campaigns, which, in turn, prevents the state from reaping the benefits of media buys and other campaign-related spending. In 2004, for example, it is estimated the Iowa caucuses netted that state between $50 and $60 million.

But perhaps the biggest negative associated with our late primary is low voter turnout. It doesn’t seem to matter how important a local race may be, the lack of relevance to the national race tends to make local voters even more apathetic than usual.

Rescheduling Indiana’s primary election would be complicated. In the first place, it would mean rewriting the state’s election code and getting the approval of the state Legislature. This would mean changing candidate filing deadlines, which now fall in January, to the previous year, as well as when candidates raise money, not to mention the potentially awkward issue of holding a primary election while the state Legislature was still in session. If, as Gov. Daniels among others have suggested, Indiana were to hold a separate “presidential preference” vote at an earlier date and apart from the May primary, that would entail extra costs.

Last year, state Sen. Tim Lanane of Anderson proposed moving our primary up to the first Tuesday in March, but his idea didn’t get out of the Senate’s Elections and Redistricting Committee. Lanane’s proposal had at least two disadvantages: It would have caused state legislators a massive amount of sweat and strain à la the protracted deliberations of daylight-saving time and property tax reform, and still left Indiana an entire month behind Super Tuesday in February, where 24 states get to have their potentially game-ending say.

The extraordinary competitiveness of this year’s race — and the way it has extended the primary season — has prompted a national discussion of primary reform. Ideas include holding a single national primary — Super Tuesday on steroids — or possibly a sequence of regional primaries that would be staggered from one election cycle to another so that a different region would lead off every fourth year.

Given Indiana’s well-documented difficulties when it comes to turning ideas into legislative action, it’s no wonder that many state and local officials are openly hoping for a national mandate. That way, Indiana will get the change to its primary system that many voters seem to want — but no one here will be stuck with the blame.

Save your breath

Before you chide, chastise or criticize us for not including John McCain in our primary election story, let us remind you that he has already secured the Republican Party nomination for president of the United States. There is no contest; he isn’t campaigning here; he doesn’t have a campaign office here; there are no delegate votes to speculate about. He is guaranteed to win. We did attend his one and only fundraising, ahem, campaign stop in Indianapolis back in February, however. You’ll find photos in our photo gallery

Are you registered?

Voter registration deadline is Monday, April 7

It’s simple.

You can’t vote if you aren’t a registered voter.

In order to vote in the primary election May 7, as well as the general election in November, you must register to vote by next Monday, April 7.

In Indiana, you may register to vote in both the primary and general election if you are a citizen of the United States; will be 18 years of age by the time of the next general election; will have been a resident of your precinct for 30 days before the election; and you are not currently in prison after being convicted of a crime.

For more information on how and where you can register, contact Board of Voter Registration, 200 E. Washington St., City-County Building. Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (Monday-Friday). Phone: 317-327-5040, No other person may register for you.

Punk Rock Night

Broadzilla and the Peggy Sues at the Melody

Indy’s longest-running musical event, Punk Rock Night, will play host and continue the push to get as many voters participating in the political process this Saturday, April 5. Detroit hard rockers Broadzilla, an all-girl power trio, headlines, and the rest of the lineup includes Jonny 3, The Vibrolas and local favorites the Peggy Sues. Music starts at 10 p.m. and admission is $8 for this 21 and over show. The Melody Inn is located at 3826 N. Illinois. For more information go to

More from 'Primary Matters'

Shawndra Miller’s “In favor of Obama”

Laura McPhee’s “In favor of Clinton”

Michael Dabney’s “The delegate (and super delegate) factor”

Michael Dabney’s “Establishing a home base”


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