Get registered, get informed, get involved

Get registered, get informed, get involved
By: Sarah Corn, Sarah DeMars, Stacey Kellogg Last Updated: October 1, 2019

Editor's Note: This is the second story in the GreatNews.Life Civic Engagement Series about being an informed voter. Stay tuned for others before election day. The information at this end of this article listing opportunities to engage with local candidates was provided to GreatNews.Life and does not constitute an endorsement of any program, group, party, or individual.

Indiana has about 4.5 million registered voters. You should be one of them.

Being an informed voter starts with getting registered to vote. In Indiana, the deadline to register for voting in the upcoming elections is October 7, 2019. Not sure if you’re registered to vote? Finding out this information is almost too easy in Indiana.

Got to https://indianavoters.in.gov/ and click Check Voter Status, for near-instant information about whether you’re an active registered voter and the township and precinct in which you will vote, election day voting locations and hours, early voting location and hours, who’s on the ballot, absentee ballot information, and provisional ballot information. You can even learn information about historic election results, campaign finance records, election security, and how to work the polls, among other useful info. And yes – there’s an Apple and Android app for that. Got to https://www.in.gov/core/mobile/index.html.

Those who don't have computer or smartphone access can call or visit their local county voter registration or county clerk's offices to check on their voter registration status.

In Indiana, you have a right to vote if:

  • You are both a U.S. citizen and a resident of Indiana; and
  • You will be at least 18 years of age on or before the next General or Municipal Election, and
  • You are not currently in prison after being convicted of a crime; and
  • You have lived in the precinct where you vote for at least 30 days prior to the election; and
  • You are registered to vote.

You can register to vote online at https://indianavoters.in.gov/, by mail, or in person. You’ll need a valid Indiana driver’s license, state-issued ID, or the last four digits of your social security number. Either way, it’s important to remember that this is an application for voter registration. Once you submit it, your county voter registration office will process the application, determine your eligibility, and issue you a voter registration card by mail. Only then are you registered to vote. As long as your application is made or postmarked by the deadline date (Oct. 7 for this upcoming election in November), you should receive your card before the next election if you are eligible. In person, you can apply at the voter registration our county clerk’s office in your resident county, the Indiana Election Division, any Bureau of Motor Vehicles license branch as part of conducting other BVM business (like getting a driver’s license), or at any public assistance office if you are applying for public assistance. If you’re applying in person, here’s where you can download forms to print and fill out.

If you have recently moved and need to change your voter registration status, you can do so on the Indiana Voter Portal. But – it’s important to note that you must have lived in your precinct for at least 30 days prior to the election.

Facebook and other social media sites may have voter registration promotional campaigns and postings, and election information, but it's important to remember that not all social media sites are impartial or valid. The safest place to check your status and register is through the official Indiana or county sites mentioned above.

Getting Involved on or before Election Day

If voting isn’t enough to satisfy your urge to participate in elections, there are plenty of ways to get more involved in the elections process.

1. Work the polls
Election day runs smoothly because of the tireless dedication of local citizens who set up voting booths and machines, run polling locations, assist voters, and transport ballots.

To serve as a poll worker, you must be a registered voter, a resident of the county where you want to work, and at least 18 years old. In some cases, 16 and 17-year-old residents may also help if they qualify through the Hoosier Hall Pass program
In addition to the restrictions above, before they can serve, prospective poll workers must complete a short training program, and be registered with a specific political party.

To sign up, you can either contact your county elections office or your location political party representative. For complete details and contact information, visit https://www.in.gov/sos/elections/2674.htm.

2. Volunteer with a political campaign
If you are particularly supportive of a candidate or ballot initiative, you can contact them and ask how you can help their campaign. Usually, these campaigns will have a website and/or Facebook page easily located through an internet search, with contact information prominently displayed.

Most campaigns don’t have age or residency restrictions and will be more than happy to find a way for you to contribute.

You can also reach out to your local political party representative if you don’t have a specific campaign yet in mind, to find out where help is most needed.

3. Volunteer with a local civic organization
Many groups represent people impacted directly by election outcomes, but who are not themselves affiliated with a specific political campaign or party. Members of these groups often sponsor events like candidate debates and forums, voter registration drives, and Get Out the Vote efforts that encourage overall participation.

Usually, such groups are connected with local faith-based or non-profit organizations. The best way to get involved with this kind of work is to reach out to one such organization in your area, or your county elections administration office, and ask if they have or know of any civic participation outreach projects happening in your area.  

Know Your Candidates

You can learn who is on the ballot in the county where you are registered to vote by visiting https://indianavoters.in.gov/ and clicking Who's On the Ballot. Fill out the box that looks like this:

Click submit and you will see a list of candidates on your ballot. Voters should learn as much as they can about candidates beforehand to make an informed decision. This can be difficult to do in today's tumultuous political climate that is fueled by aggressive social media and advertising campaigns that can be based on slamming opponents instead of informing voters on the issues. But facts are available from non-partisan sites, and there are even opportunities to meet candidates in person or watch candidate forums online, on TV, or via radio.

Here are a few candidate forums we found locally.

Chesterton Candidate Forum & Luncheon
Hosted by the Duneland Chamber of Commerce
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 23, Sand Creek Country Club, 1001 Sand Creek Drive, Chesterton. Candidates to appear:
Stephanie Kuziela - Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer; Courtney Udvare - Chesterton Clerk Treasurer; Emerson Delaney - Chesterton Town Council District 5; Jennifer Fisher - Chesterton Town Council District 5; Geof Benson - Beverly Shores Town Council; Carol Westbrook - Beverly Shores Town Council; William Lopez - Porter Town Council district 3; Jim Burge - Porter Town Council District 4; David Philips - Porter Town Council District 4
Tickets & registration are required in advance. Cost is $25. Information: https://www.facebook.com/events/2305461209718703/

Crown Point Candidates Night
Hosted by Hometown Happenings.
7-9 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29 at First United Methodist Church, 352 S. Main St., Crown Point. Includes municipal and mayoral candidates. More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/474147466755357/

Lake County election information
Website: VOTE411.org
(Powered by the League of Women Voters in Lake County with support from the Legacy Foundation)
* Lake County, Ind., residents can easily enter their home address to view which candidates are on their ballot. Only residents who live within true municipality lines have elections this year, so an individual who lives in a township and not within a town or city will have no candidate information on VOTE411.org. Same thing goes for voters outside of Lake County.
* Once the user enters their address, their “sample ballot” will populate. Regardless if a candidate responded to the survey, the user will be able to see each candidate’s name under each race.
* While reviewing the sample ballot, users can select which candidate they will be voting for. Once the user reviews his or her entire ballot the user will have the opportunity to send the completed ballot to a cell phone or email address. The user can then refer to this before voting.

La Porte Municipal Election Candidate Forum Plus Meet & Greet
Hosted by La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership and the La Porte Jaycees
6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 24 at the La Porte High School Performing Arts Center, 602 F St., La Porte. Forum is from 6-7 p.m. Candidate meet & greet is from 7-7:30 p.m. If you missed it, you can view the entire forum here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yug2E3dHTR8

La Porte City Candidate Forum
Hosted by the League of Women Voters
6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17 at the La Porte County Complex, 809 State St.(Michigan St), La Porte. 

Michigan City Candidate Forum
Hosted by the League of Women Voters
6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9, in the lower chamber of Michigan City, City Hall, 100 E. Michigan Blvd., Michigan City.

Portage Mayoral Candidate Forum
Hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce
6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 14, Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek Road, Oakwood Hall, Portage.
Note: No electioneering will be allowed, including candidate fliers, buttons, or clothing.

Portage Municipal Candidate Luncheon & Mingle
Hosted by the Greater Portage Chamber of Commerce
11 a.m. - 1 p.m., Woodland Park, 2100 Willowcreek Road, Portage.
Registration is required by Oct. 8 by calling 219-762-3300.
Cost is $20 for chamber members, $25 for non-members.

Porter County Candidate Information Session
Hosted by Porter County Elections & Registration. This is specifically for candidates who are running for office and will cover how to accurately complete campaign finance reports and common signage concerns.
9-11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in the Commissioners’ Chambers, Porter County Administration Building, 155 Indiana Ave, Valparaiso.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/749026575526671/

Valparaiso City Council At-Large Candidate Forum
Hosted by the League of Women Voters and the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce
6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019 at the Memorial Opera House, 104 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso.
Live stream by Porter County Career Center
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fEy9UbJGCs
Note: Campaign buttons, shirts, jackets, hats, etc., and campaign literature are prohibited.

Valparaiso Mayoral Candidate Forum
Hosted by the League of Women Voters, the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, and Lakeshore Public Radio.
6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019 at the Memorial Opera House, 104 Indiana Ave., Valparaiso.
Live stream by Porter County Career Center.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YASa1bjkvH4

Valparaiso All-Candidate Forum
Hosed by the Agenda for Better Community
7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17, at Trinity Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 201 N. Washington St., Valparaiso. Plenty of parking is available on the west side of the church.

Valparaiso candidate radio interviews
Tune in to WVLP 103.1 FM or their Facebook page for posted interviews with local candidates. https://www.facebook.com/wvlp103.1fm/

Know of other events not listed here? Please email time, date, place, and sponsoring/hosting organization to share@greatnews.life.