Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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November 8, 2012

Voter turnout shows Elkhart County’s Republican side

GOSHEN —  Elkhart County was decidedly a Republican stronghold, based on last night’s finalized numbers.

Voter turnout was lower this election than during the 2008 presidential election, but it was still successful, according to Wendy Hudson, clerk of the circuit court and secretary of the Elkhart County Election Board.

“We got voters to the right precincts when they called,” Hudson said. “We had a lot of voters that didn’t know where to vote — we spent all day doing that, answering calls and helping voters get to where they needed to go. The voter turnout was higher in 2008 with about 65 percent turnout, and we hit about 55 percent turnout this year. I was hoping we would hit at least 60 percent.”

Hudson said election night wrapped up for Elkhart County around 10 p.m., after the votes from one precinct had to be rescanned through a voting machine.

“The poll workers didn’t handle a power outage correctly,” Hudson said.

The precinct poll workers accidentally combined absentee and regular ballots into a pile, but didn’t know which had been counted, Hudson said. The ballots did not have to be hand-counted, but they did have to be rescanned by Election Board staff at the main office to get a correct number.

National races

Elkhart County voters wanted the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in the White House, according to turnout numbers.

The ticket received 42,348 votes, or 62.3 percent, in Tuesday’s election. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received 24,376 votes, or 35.86 percent. The Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and Jim Gray received 1,044 votes, or 1.54 percent. There were 207 write-in votes.

Compared to 2008, that is a slightly higher margin of victory for the Republican ticket. In 2008, The John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket gathered 39,396 votes, or 55 percent, while the Obama/Biden ticket gathered 31,398 votes, or 43.83 percent.

Republicans succeeded in other national races in the county, too. Had the race for the open U.S. Senate seat from Indiana been decided by Elkhart County, Republican Richard Mourdock would have won. He received 35,832 votes from Elkhart County residents, 53.3 percent and just over 7,600 more votes than his Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly, who received 28,205 votes, or 41.95 percent of the vote.

Donnelly, who currently serves as Indiana’s U.S. House District 2 representative, went on to win the election state-wide.

Speaking of U.S. House District 2, Republican Jackie Walorski won handily in Elkhart County. She received 38,864 votes (57.65 percent), while Democrat Brendan Mullen received 26,595 votes (39.45 percent) and Libertarian Joe Ruiz received 1,926 votes (2.86 percent). Mullen lost the entire district by a smaller margin.

This is the first time in more than 10 years that a majority of Elkhart County has been included in District 2. Elkhart County Republican Chairman Dale Stickel said that Elkhart County used to be in the same district as South Bend, but in 2000, when Indiana lost two congressional seats, the county was split between two districts.

“I would say they’ve been in the same district 20 out of the last 30 years, or even 30 out of the last 40 years,” Stickel said Wednesday.

State and local races

The race for the Indiana governor’s spot in Elkhart County had similar margins to the U.S. Senate and U.S. District 2 races. Republican Mike Pence won Elkhart County with 38,969 votes, or 57.9 percent. Democrat John Gregg got 26,340 votes, or 39.14 percent, with Libertarian Rupert Boneham receiving 1,978 votes, or 2.94 percent. Pence won state-wide, but by a smaller margin.

Compared to 2008, those are almost identical percentages. Republican incumbent Mitch Daniels received 57.83 percent of the vote in Elkhart County then, and Democrat Jill Long Thompson received 39.67 percent.

Elkhart County Council will see three at-large seats filled by Republicans, which has been par for the course for the last several decades. John Letherman and David Ashe will return to the council, and current Goshen City Council President Tom Stump will make the switch to county government in January with his new position. All received more than 38,000 votes, comparable but slightly higher than the number of votes received by the top at large county council members in 2008.

According to current Elkhart County Councilman David Hess, the last Democrat elected to Elkhart County Council was Ben Barnes in the early 1980s.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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