By Taylor Wooten
INDIANAPOLIS —In an election year where the COVID-19 pandemic threatened the welfare and lives of all, voter turnout increased nationwide, with Indiana hitting the highest turnout since 1992.
In the 2016 presidential election, 58% of registered Indiana voters cast ballots. In 2020, 65% of registered Indiana voters made their voices heard at the polls.
With the pandemic wreaking havoc across the state, many voters opted to vote absentee, which requires them to have a reason to cast a ballot by mail. A total 61% of votes were absentee, compared to 33% in the 2016 general election.
In spite of several court challenges to the rules, Indiana remained one of a handful of states that required voters to have a specific reason before requesting an absentee ballot. But even though state officials refused to allow no-excuse mail-in ballots, large numbers of Hoosiers still opted to vote remotely.
Indiana is still 42nd in voter turnout in the United States, according to statista.com. Indiana was 37th in 2016. Each state saw an increase in voter turnout, with the average being an increase of 7.5%, according to NBC News. Indiana saw an increase of only 5%.
Hawaii and Vermont saw the biggest jumps, with both gaining over 13 percentage points since 2016. Oklahoma had the smallest increase, at 2.9%.
The United States average for voter turnout is 66%. It increased from 59% in 2016.
According to statista.com, Minnesota had the highest voter turnout in the presidential election with nearly 80% as of Nov. 16.
Voter registration deadlines and voter ID laws often deter people from voting. Unlike Indiana, Minnesota allows citizens to register to vote on Election Day. Minnesota also has less restrictive voter ID laws for registration and on election days.
For Election Day registration, Minnesota allows another registered voter in a precinct vouching for the fact that the registering voter resides in the precinct as proof of residence for registration. Minnesota law does not require a photo ID to be presented in order to vote.
Minnesota also allows college students to register with their student ID, while Indiana does not allow students at private colleges to use them as identification. Indiana does require photo IDs to vote on election days, and these must fit the four criteria listed, which includes a photo, a name matching a previous voter registration record and an expiration date.
Both Indiana and Minnesota allow felons to vote after serving a sentence.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson congratulated Hamilton and Wells counties for having the highest voter turnout in the state. From 2016 to the 2020 general election, Hamilton and Wells counties improved from 69% and 70%, respectively, to 75%. Both counties overwhelmingly supported Republican candidates.
The only county where voter turnout decreased from 2016 is Madison County. Madison County also saw a larger number of voters supporting Republican candidates, including the hotly contested Fifth Congressional District race between Victoria Spartz and Christina Hale.
Scott County, which had the lowest voter turnout in 2016 with 47%, increased to 60% for the 2020 general election. Republican incumbent Donald Trump received 72% of the vote in Scott County.
According to electionproject.com, more than 5.1 million Hoosiers are voting-age, with just over 5 million being voting-eligible. Nearly 3.1 million Indiana residents voted in the election. While Indiana law allows former inmates or those awaiting trail to vote, the imprisoned cannot, taking out 26,302 potential voters out of the voter pool. The remaining ineligible population consists of non-citizens of the United States.
Taylor Wooten is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.