NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Erin Predmore was published in the Oct. 9, 2020 Bloomington Herald-Times.
This year, the presidential election is sucking all the oxygen out of the room as we head toward Nov. 3. It’s certainly a crucial race and not just for the business community.
But here’s the thing: While presidential candidates receive much-deserved attention and scrutiny, many of the down-ballot races go virtually unnoticed. How many times in the past have you filled out your ballot and wondered: “Who the heck are these people?”
The candidates we elect for local and state offices have a direct impact on our daily lives. They make decisions that impact businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and individuals. They decide how our tax dollars are spent. They make policies and regulations that affect how your business can operate and whether you can thrive. They hire and oversee our school superintendents. They determine how laws are applied. And most of them do this in relative anonymity.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is working to help our members and others in the community be more informed voters. We’ve launched an online, nonpartisan guide for elected positions that represent all or parts of Monroe County. Please check it out at ChamberBloomington.org/2020-general-election.
You’ll find information, including short video interviews, for candidates in these races: U.S. Congress District 9, Indiana Senate and Indiana House of Representatives, Monroe County Council and Commission, other Monroe County elected offices, Monroe County Circuit Court, and trustees for Monroe County Community School Corp. and Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp.
We encourage you to research the candidates by reading reports in the Bloomington Herald-Times and other media, by visiting the League of Women Voters’ Vote411.org, by reviewing each candidate’s campaign materials, and by contacting candidates directly if you have questions. We hope the chamber’s online resource guide can be part of that mix.
Of course, knowing about the candidates is just part of the puzzle. Getting people to the polls is a heavy lift, too. In 2016, turnout in Monroe County was about 53%. If that were a grade, we’d be failing. We can do better.
Early voting started Tuesday. What are you doing to ensure our community gets at least a passing grade in turnout this year?
We understand that many businesses shy away from anything to do with elections, citing concerns over being political. We get it. But voting itself is foundational to our democracy. Encouraging your employees to vote and pointing them to nonpartisan resources is an act of citizenship, not politics.
Publicize resources like the ones mentioned above. Encourage your employees to take advantage of early voting hours — go to MonroeCountyVoters.us for a list of hours at Election Central, 401 W. Seventh St. Make sure your staff knows if they are eligible for an absentee ballot. Provide flexibility if employees need to take time to vote on Election Day. Host an Election Day pizza party to celebrate democracy.
Put up a Vote Now or Vote Early sign in front of your business.
You’ll be seeing those signs around town, thanks to a partnership with the Chamber, the League of Women Voters and Monroe County Election Central. The league’s Vote Early signs are available for your business — you can pick one up at the chamber office at 421 W. Sixth St.
And look for periodic “flockings” of Monroe County’s Vote Now signs in front of businesses around town. Volunteers are planting dozens of signs at different locations, where they’ll alight for a few days before moving on.
Critical mass is important in making an impact, whether we’re talking about signs or voter turnout. Please help our community ensure a strong, informed showing on Nov. 3.
The 2020 General Election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3. In addition to the race for U.S. President, many candidates are running for local, state and federal office. To help voters navigate their options, the Chamber has launched a nonpartisan resource guide for elected positions that represent all or parts of Monroe County.
In addition to general resources about the voting process, the site includes information about candidates for U.S. Congress District 9, Indiana Senate and House of Representatives, Monroe County Council and Commission, Monroe County Circuit Court, other Monroe County elected offices, and the school boards for Monroe County Community School Corp. and Richland-Bean Blossom Schools.
Not sure who's on your ballot? Go to the League of Women Voters Vote411 site, enter your address and get a listing. Or search for your ballot on the Indiana Voter Portal by clicking the "Who's On The Ballot" link.
UPDATE: The LWV has distributed all its signs and they are no longer available.
The League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County is seeking locations for yard signs encouraging people to vote early and to check their voter registration for the Nov. 3 election.
To host a sign, contact Tom Duffy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-345-2544.
The voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. In-person early voting starts Oct. 6. More information, including how to request an absentee ballot, is on the Monroe County Election Central website and the Indiana Voter Portal.
Andy Ruff prevailed in a field of 5 candidates for the Democratic Party nomination to the 9th District Congressional seat and will face incumbent Republican Trey Hollingsworth in November.
Here's a rundown of other winners in competitive races on June 2:
Click here for a full list of Monroe County election results in the June 2 primary. Candidates will move on to compete in the general election on Nov. 3.
NOTE: The following op-ed was co-authored by Ann Birch, President of the League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County, and Mary Morgan, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. A version was published in the May 20, 2020 Indiana Daily Student.
The COVID-19 crisis gives all of us a compelling reason to invest in our democracy—when could this be more important than in times of national emergency? Here’s what you can do to make sure your voice is heard:
1) Be aware. By now, all Monroe County registered voters should have received an absentee ballot application. If you want to vote by mail, no excuses needed, this is your chance. You can also apply for your ballot online at the Indiana Voter Portal. You have until May 21 to get your application in.
You can still vote in person both on Election Day and during early voting. Early voting starts on May 26 at Monroe County Election Central, 401 W. 7th St. – check their website for hours. With the continued need for protection against COVID-19, your polling place on Election Day (June 2) may have changed, and new rules will be in place to minimize the chance for contagion. Find your polling place at the Indiana Voter Portal.
2) Be informed. Several nonpartisan guides give candidate information and enable comparison between candidates on issues. The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce provides a voter guide for local candidates, state legislature candidates, and District 9 congressional candidates. The League of Women Voters voter Vote411 website includes questions and answers on issues for federal and state races and links to candidate information for local races. Just go to the site, enter your address, and under “Find What’s On Your Ballot,” click Explore Now.
In addition to these two resources, the Concerned Scientists at Indiana University Bloomington organization has queried District 9 congressional candidates on science topics. Check out the CSIU website to read the responses.
3) Be counted. This is a census year. When you respond to the census, you are helping to direct billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads, and other public services. In addition, census results are used to determine your political representation at all levels of government. If you’re an IU student, have you counted yourself? Getting students to count themselves and their roommates at their off-campus apartments, not at their parents’ homes, has been challenging. Go to the Census 2020 site to fill out the questionnaire. It’s important. And it’s easy.
Need to learn more about candidates in the June 2, 2020 primary election? The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is helping inform voters with a new resource site.
The Chamber's guide to the 2020 Primary Elections includes videos of one-on-one interviews with candidates in local, state and federal races, and candidates' written responses to questions from the Chamber. You'll also find links to campaign websites and social media for the candidates, if available.
This year, there are competitive primary races for Monroe County Council at-large seats, Monroe County Circuit Court, the Indiana legislature and the District 9 U.S. Congressional seat.
All registered voters can vote by mail in the primary. Click here to apply for your ballot online.
Any registered voter can vote by mail in the June 2 primary, following an action by the Indiana Election Commission in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically voters must provide a reason for voting absentee, but that requirement has been waived.
To vote by mail, follow these steps:
Click here to see who's running in the primary.
The Indiana Election Commission approved moving the state's primary election from May 5 to June 2, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has effectively shut down the state, nation and many parts of the world.
The commission, at its March 25 meeting, also ordered that any registered and qualified Indiana voter can vote using an absentee ballot by mail. Normally, voters must provide a specific reason for absentee voting.
These actions were enabled by Gov. Eric Holcomb's declaration of a public health disaster emergency effective March 6, 2020, in response to the pandemic.
Read the Election Commission's order here. More information on absentee voting is on the Monroe County Election Central's website.
In a letter sent to the Indiana Election Commission, Chamber CEO Erin Predmore asked commissioners to eliminate restrictions for voting by mail in the May 5 primary election, due to COVID-19 concerns.
"During these unprecedented times, Hoosiers who are registered voters should be able to receive and cast their ballot by mail rather than voting in person," Predmore stated. "This proposed change has received strong bipartisan support. We urge the Indiana Election Commission to take decisive action to help protect the health of our state’s residents while maintaining the basic functions of democracy."
This change has received support from the state GOP and Democratic parties. Currently, voters must provide a reason to cast an absentee ballot by mail. Those reasons include being at least 65 years old, being unable to get to the polls because of illness or lack of transportation, or having disabilities, among other reasons.
Want to weigh in? Emails can be sent to Indiana Election Commissioners at email@example.com.
Click here to apply for an absentee ballot by mail. More information about the May 5 primary is available on the Monroe County Election Central website.
Feb. 7 was the deadline to file as a candidate for the May 5 primary election, and several seats representing parts of Monroe County will have competitive races. UPDATE: The primary election has been moved to June 2, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
See below for a roundup. Click here for a printable one-page list. Click here for the full list of all candidates statewide.
The deadline to register to vote is Monday, April 6. Early voting begins on April 7. Click here for a voter registration form.
Check out the Monroe County Election Central website for more information.
CONGRESS 9th DISTRICT
Incumbent Trey Hollingsworth is unopposed in the Republican primary. Five candidates are competing in the Democratic primary: D. Liam Dorris, Brandon Hood, James O'Gabhann III, Mark Powell, and Andy Ruff.
In District 40, Democrat Mark Stoops is not seeking re-election to this seat. Three candidates have filed to run in the Democratic Party primary: Trent Feuerbach, Shelli Yoder and John Zody. No Republican candidates are running.
In District 44, Republican incumbent Eric Koch is running unopposed in the primary. No Democrats have filed for this seat.
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Incumbent Democrat Matt Pierce is unopposed in the Democratic primary for District 61, and no Republicans are running.
In District 62, Republican incumbent Jeff Ellington faces Greg Knott in the primary. In November, the winner will face Democrat Alyssa Bailey, who is unopposed in the primary.
Republican incumbent Bob Heaton (District 46) is unopposed in the primary and no Democrats are running for that seat. Republican incumbent Chris May (District 65) is unchallenged on May 5 but in November faces Democrat Paula Staley, who is unopposed in the primary.
Incumbent Peggy Mayfield (District 60) will run against Dave Rinehart in the Republican primary. Tiffany Grant is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for that seat.
MONROE COUNTY COUNCIL AT-LARGE
Five candidates will vie for three at-large seats on the Monroe County Council in the Democratic Party primary: Incumbents Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim and Cheryl Munson, as well as Karl Boehm and Dominic Thompson.
There are two candidates in the Republican Party primary for those at-large seats: James Allen and Zachary Weisheit.
MONROE COUNTY COMMISSIONER
Incumbent Monroe County Commissioners Julie Thomas (District 2) and Penny Githens (District 3) are running unopposed this year in the Democratic primary. No Republicans are running for these seats. Randy Paul has filed as a Green Party candidate in District 2.
OTHER MONROE COUNTY POSITIONS
Incumbents for four countywide offices, all Democrats, are running unopposed: Cathy Smith, auditor; Jessica McClellan, treasurer; Joani Shields, coroner; Trohn Enright-Randolph, surveyor. No Republicans have filed to run for these seats.
Elizabeth Cure isn't seeking re-election for Monroe County Circuit Court Judge, Division 1. Two Democrats – Geoff Bradley and Alphonso Manns – are competing in the Democratic primary. Carl Lamb is also running for that seat, but is unopposed in the Republican primary.
For Division 8, incumbent Republican Judith Benchkart is unopposed, but will face the winner of the Democratic primary – Jeff Kehr or Kara Elaine Krothe – in November.
Incumbent Democrat Valeri Haughton is running unopposed for Division 2, and no Republicans have filed.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy