SOUTHERN INDIANA — By 6 p.m. Tuesday, nearly 30,000 people had cast ballots in Clark and Floyd counties for their new or re-elected mayors, town and city officials.
Every election, including the 2019 municipal general election, has its own unique narrative, though oftentimes it's not apparent when in the throes of tallying votes. The day after, though, is when some of those storylines come into focus.
VOTER TURNOUT HIGHER
Though there were just under 14,000 more registered Clark County voters showing in election results for the 2015 municipal election, Clark County Clerk Susan Popp said that's due in large part to that election having a public question regarding Greater Clark County Schools on the ballot for some, essentially making the number of people eligible to vote in that election larger.
There were 81,506 people showing as registered in 2015. In this year's election, there were 67,622. Popp said another reason for the change in numbers is that people who may be in a split precinct — one where some have a ballot in a given year and some that don't, depending on where they live — may have been counted in the higher 2015 number and have since been cleaned up to reflect more true numbers of voters eligible to vote in an election.
Though there were fewer registered voters in Clark County this year than in the 2015 municipal election, slightly more eligible voters cast ballots. Clark County saw 30 percent voter turnout this year compared to 28 percent four years ago. In Floyd County, that percentage increase was even higher, with about 30 percent voter turnout this year compared to less than 25 percent in 2015.
Even with the increase, over two-thirds of eligible voters stayed home.
Among those who did vote, there was a significant jump in Republicans voting for the GOP across the board in both Clark and Floyd counties. In Clark, about 1,000 more ballots were straight-party Republican tickets than in 2015, bringing this year's total to 3,671; Democrats had 2,447 straight-party tickets this year. In Floyd County, both parties cast more straight-party tickets this year — Democrats with 729 more and Republicans with 583 more.
In Charlestown, Democratic mayor-elect Treva Hodges made history by not only being the first woman to lead Charlestown as mayor, but also by defeating Republican incumbent Bob Hall, who's been in office for 15 years, by 30 votes.
"I definitely take pride in a it, I think it's a symptom of strong women that Charlestown has had over its years," Hodges said Wednesday. "Because of the ammunition plant that was here, we certainly had a lot of strong women that were stepping outside of traditional roles in World War II just to go to work.
"Traditional expectations for women's roles are getting more flexible and we're starting to see that women have a lot to bring to office from the life experiences that we have."
But Hodges said while she does happen to be a woman, she believes the win was about her having the ideas that Charlestown wants right now.
"There wasn't a whole lot being said at the time of the campaign about me being the first woman, it wasn't about that," she said. "It really was about the issues facing Charlestown." Hodges will also be the first Charlestown mayor to hold a doctorate degree.
In Clarksville, voters just elected the third woman known to have ever served on the town council, at-large candidate Karen Henderson, a Democrat. She joins Jennifer Voignier, Republican at-large candidate, who was first elected to District 4 in 2015.
Not only that, but the Clarksville ticket had a total of five women running for council or clerk treasurer seats, along with the first African American to run in Clarksville, Republican Andre Jones. Democrat councilman Jaime Hunt, caucused into office in 2018 following the death of David Fisher, is the first African American to sit on the town council.
"Andre Jones came very close to being the first popularly elected African American member of the council," A.D. Stonecipher, Republican re-elected Tuesday to District 5, said. "We're very proud of the hard-fought race there."
Stonecipher said he hopes to see the growth in diversity on the board continue.
"I think we are slowly growing more diverse, and I think district voting helped arguably more candidates have access to running a competitive race," he said.
This is the first time Clarksville voters have elected their candidates through district voting since it was implemented in 2016 — prior to that, all eligible voters in town could vote for all council candidates, essentially making them all At-large.
In Jeffersonville, two African American incumbent councilmen — Dustin White in District 1 and Ron Ellis, at-large, retained their seats. The 2015-elected board also had two women — Lisa Gill, who was just elected Tuesday as the new city clerk starting in 2020, and Callie Jahn, the youngest woman ever elected to public office in the state when she won in 2015. Jahn resigned from the seat in April, with less than a year left of her term, stating in a letter given to the News and Tribune that she wanted to focus on her new marriage and family life.
New Albany re-elected Democratic Mayor Jeff Gahan for a third term Tuesday with 54 percent of the vote. He will continue to work with a Democratic-led council, though it's not a big tilt; the board seated Jan. 1 is made up of five Democrats, three Republicans and one independent.
Jeffersonville's incumbent Republican Mayor Mike Moore handily won re-election, despite the city being more than half Democrat. He'll continue to work with the Republican-led council.
The Georgetown board lost two Democratic seats, moving from an all-Democratic-led council elected in 2015 to 3-2 this round, with Republicans in the lead. Sellersburg remains a close split 3-2 with Republicans one seat ahead and Greenville's newly elected board is all Republicans.
In Charlestown, Hodges, the newly elected Democratic mayor, will work with an all-Republican council. Clarksville will see a switch back to a Democrat-majority council after Republicans took the board 5-2 in 2015. But Stonecipher, soon to be in the minority on the council that will have three Republicans and four Democrats in January, said the current council has worked together well as a bipartisan team, and he hopes to see that continue.
"Though we're closely split, I'm confident that we're going to work in good faith with one another," he said.