Electing Democrats in Indiana has been an uphill battle in recent years, and this election was no different. Dr. Woody Myers may not have won the gubernatorial election, but he made important progress in the state. He will go down in history as the first Black candidate for governor from a major party in Indiana.
Even though Indiana has only supported a Democrat for president five times since 1900, the state elected 11 Democratic governors during that same time frame. Indiana had a string of Democratic governors from 1989 to 2005, but the office has since been occupied by Republicans. Gov. Eric Holcomb was re-elected today, continuing this trend.
Running against an incumbent is challenging enough, but Myers is also a Democrat in a state that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump in 2016. Republicans have enjoyed a supermajority in the statehouse since 2012, and Indiana is gerrymandered to their advantage. Mathematically, it’s extremely difficult for Democrats to carry the state.
Voter suppression exacerbated the situation. Indiana was one of six states that required an excuse unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic to request an absentee ballot. More Democrats than Republicans vote by mail, so this has a greater effect on Democratic campaigns.
Additionally, a 2017 Indianapolis Star investigation found that early voting was systematically reduced in areas that lean Democrat and expanded in areas that lean Republican. Many places in Indiana reported hours-long lines for early voting, particularly in Marion County.
Marion County had fewer voting locations per capita than any of the surrounding counties. The total number of registered voters in Hamilton County, for example, is equivalent to only 38% of registered voters in Marion County, yet Hamilton County had two more polling locations. Polling hours in Marion County were extended Oct. 27 and Lucas Oil Stadium opened up as an additional location Oct. 31, but this may have been too little, too late.
The odds were always stacked against Myers. For his campaign to do as well as it did under the circumstances should be counted as a success.
Myers may not have won, but he may have helped countless Democrats win local elections. Voters who were driven to the polls by the Myers campaign likely voted for other Democratic candidates because of their similar views.
Still, it can be incredibly disheartening to volunteer for a candidate who ultimately loses. Volunteers poured their blood, sweat and tears into the Myers campaign all for it to come to an abrupt end on Nov. 3.
I called potential Myers voters with the College Democrats at IU on Oct. 28. Most of the time I was just listening to the phone ring, waiting for a potential voter to pick up the phone. Even when voters answered, which was rare, many would hang up after I said I was a campaign volunteer.
Sounds fun, right?
It can be pretty demoralizing, but the people who don’t hang up make it all worth it. Every single Democratic vote pushes Indiana further to the left. Big changes like flipping Indiana Blue don’t happen overnight.
By proving that it’s still possible to run a competitive statewide campaign in Indiana, Myers paved the way for the next Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Hopefully their election will have a different outcome.
As I sit here on election night in my Dr. Woody Myers for Governor T-shirt, watching the results come in, I don’t regret spending my time volunteering. If anything, I wish I did more. I’m incredibly proud of my friends who worked on his campaign. It was a race well run.
Allyson McBride (she/her) is a junior studying English and political science. She is the press secretary for the College Democrats at IU, non-fiction editor for An Inkslinger's Observance and a member of IU Student Congress.