As high drama hung over the nation in the aftermath of the Nov. 8 midterm election, Hoosier voters found themselves mere spectators.
In many states, voters defied expectations and shrugged off traditions. They punished candidates who echoed the baseless claims of former President Donald Trump that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulently decided in favor of Joe Biden. In doing so, they returned control of the U.S. Senate to the Democratic Party, and denied Republicans the red wave they so hoped would give them a large majority in the House of Representatives.
Indiana voters, at least those who bothered to go to the polls, were not part of that movement. Rather, they adopted a status quo approach to Hoosier politics, handing Republicans a legislative super majority once again and electing GOP candidates to all statewide offices on the ballot.
This performance at the polls was mostly expected. Indiana has become a reliably red state in the past decade, aided in part by gerrymandering that produces more than 70% of legislative seats despite top GOP state candidates garnering less than 57% of the votes. It seems an eternity since Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama won Indiana in 2008 en route to the White House and Democrat Joe Donnelly captured a Senate seat in 2012.
The 2022 voting results were unambiguous. Indiana’s Democratic Party continues to struggle to rally enough support to propel it to statewide election victories. Even when it presents voters with quality candidates, the results are the same.
Never has that reality been so stark as it was this year in the Indiana Secretary of State race. Democrat Destiny Wells mounted an aggressive and competent campaign against Republican Diego Morales, an exceptionally weak candidate who once spouted claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump and pledged to pursue more restrictions on state voting systems. He was accused of misrepresenting his military service, and generated claims of committing election fraud by voting in one county while obtaining a property tax exemption on a home in another county.
As if that wasn’t enough to raise doubts about Morales’ fitness for office, he had also twice previously left jobs in the secretary of the state’s office after poor performance reviews.
He won the election anyway by a comfortable margin, although his vote totals did lag the rest of the statewide GOP ticket it.
Morales’ election poses uncomfortable questions. Did voters not know about the Republican candidates’ poor qualifications for the office he sought? Or, because he had an “R” behind his name, did they just not care? Most likely the answer is: A bit of both.
With voter turnout remaining among the lowest in the nation, Indiana’s political makeup is unchanged. Meanwhile, heavily gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts ensure that Republicans will continue to have an advantage in Hoosier politics that is greater than the electorate it governs.
Terre Haute Tribune Star Editorial Board