Here are some of the issues driving voters

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Voters line up to cast their ballots early voting at the City-County building in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.

Indianapolis Star

With less than a month until Election Day, many Hoosiers have already or plan to cast their votes early. The candidates names printed on each of those ballots represent a spectrum of ideologies and philosophies, but it’s often their approach to issues like health care, education, taxes and job creation that influence a voter’s selection. 

Nationally, the biggest race on the ballot is the presidential election, as President Donald Trump vies against former Vice President Joe Biden to stay in the White House.

Both parties are seeking to take hold of Indiana’s 5th Congressional District , which stretches from Indianapolis to the city of Marion and includes Hamilton County. Democrat Christina Hale, Republican Victoria Spartz and Libertarian Ken Tucker are facing off in the conservative-leaning district represented by Congresswoman Susan Brooks, who is retiring.

What you need to know: Steps you can take if you have problems voting at the polls in Indiana

At the state level, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb is running for his second term as governor, and faces Democratic Dr. Woody Myers and Libertarian Donald Rainwater. And there are many more races that will appear on Hoosiers’ ballots, from school board races to state attorney general.

IndyStar asked Central Indiana residents which issues were most important to them during this election. Here’s what they said:

Kyle Adams, 41

Kyle Adams, 41 (Photo: Provided by Kyle Adams)

Adams, who considers himself a moderate independent with a conservative lean, said he plans to vote straight-ticket for Democrats for the first time ever in this election.

“To me that’s a sign of how frustrated I am with the Republican Party as a whole,” the Whitestown resident said. “It’s not just enough that Trump lose. This kind of behavior, the Trumpism, needs to lose its footing in the Republican Party in order to become a party that I would consider voting for again.”

Among the broad issues Adams said he’s focusing on this year include social justice, equity and fostering economic growth that promotes justice and benefits low-wage earners rather than the people at the very top of the economic food chain. 

Ultimately, this election comes down to integrity.

“It’s far less about policy this time and much more about integrity and having someone in office who understands and respects the institutions around him,” he said, “and I don’t feel Trump is that person.”

Adam Bouse, 38

The Muncie resident said he planned to vote for Biden, hoping for an administration more representative of the broader American public.

“The highest level, for me, the most important thing is who is going to be in a position to bring about the most compassion and the most justice,” he said. 

And he means that in several ways, he said. Whether it’s racial justice, employment and economic parity, climate change or the pandemic, “there’s just a sense that there are a lot of people who are hurting and suffering,” Bouse said. 

That over 200,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19 is “inexcusable,” Bouse said. 

“That didn’t have to happen,” he said. “This was avoidable.” 

A Christian, Bouse said he tries to dispel the myth that being a person of faith is reserved only for the Evangelical Right or Trump’s core supporters. 

“(I’m voting Biden) not because he’s a Catholic or anything like that,” he said, “but simply because he aligns with my vision for what it means to be a compassionate, empathetic understanding leader who brings real solutions and serves everybody.”

Kasey Cornwell, 31

Cornwell, who worked at a Downtown hotel before the pandemic resulted in her being laid off, said the stakes feel 

“Everything is led by confusion,” she said. “Every decision seems extremely weighted”

The economy, the ongoing pandemic, racial and gender economy, the Supreme Court, sustainability and climate change are all issues she’s paying attention to, she said. She also said she would like to see term limits in place for members of Congress and judicial appointees and would prefer to see Biden take a stronger stance on Medicare for All. 

She said this election, especially, voters are at a crossroads. But they need to remember that their vote affects who is in office to write laws and, potentially, change the Constitution.

“The fun thing about America is that our Founding Fathers at least were smart enough to allow the option for change,” she said. 

Tami Franklin, 50

Among the issues important to the Franklin resident are constitutional rights, health care, lower taxes, smaller government — “Basically everything,” she said. 

Health care, Franklin said, should be privatized. She said competition would incentivize companies to drop their prices, making it more affordable for Americans. 

“I think it’d be better if it was privatized than run by the government,” she said, “because we know how the government runs things.”

In that vein, Franklin said she wants to see the government and legislators back away from their “power grab” mentality.

“I think things have gotten too big,” she said. “They think they know what’s best for us, so we’ve gotta make sure we keep our elected officials in check.” 

Franklin said she hopes her fellow voters will do their due diligence before hitting the polls.

“I think we’re at a pivotal point in our country, that this is a very important election, that everyone should be involved and do their homework,” she said. “Don’t just vote for one party, vote for the candidate and know their beliefs and what they stand for.”

Sofia Garcia, 18

Sofia Garcia will be voting for the first time this year and is also the first one in her family to vote. 

She was raised in a mix-status household, which means some of her family members  are U.S. citizens and others are undocumented. Garcia is prioritizing issues around immigration reform, she said. 

“My family always told me that my vote could be the one to make a difference,” said Garcia, who lives in Indianapolis’ 46203 zip code. “My family is the reason I am voting. I am thinking about them and our future.”

Garcia is also encouraging her friends to head to the polls. 

“I am always like, you guys should do it, and do it for your family,” she said. “There are so many people who wished they could vote and can’t. And it does count. Do not think that it doesn’t because it does and it makes a difference.”

Josh Lindo, 26

Lindo is a surveyor in Indianapolis and lives on the city’s west side in the 46224 zip code. He told IndyStar he grew up in a Nicaraguan-American household and the issues that matter most to him are the economy, health care, education and infrastructure. 

Lindo said he used to think his vote would not make a difference. But as he got older he realized voting is a privilege. He said hearing the stories from people who had and didn’t have insurance during the pandemic made him prioritize issues around healthcare. 

“Things and issues that you might not care about it, end up affecting you,” he said. “I definitely know a lot of people who had COVID-19 and passed away from it.”

And this year, he’s also thinking about issues at the local level, he said. 

“The Marion County treasurer is on the ballot, state representatives, state senate,” Lindo said. “We gotta recognize that 50, 60 years ago we would not be able to go vote. So think about it, this is important for us. People died for us to have this opportunity, so go vote.”

Karen O’Keefe, 56

O’Keefe is one Johnson County resident who waited in line to vote early at the courthouse in Franklin, on Tuesday, Oct. 6. The issues influencing O’Keefe’s decision to cast her ballot for Trump include the economy, taxes, health care and insurance.

O’Keefe said she doesn’t feel like she knows what Biden stands for or what he’d do in office. “He’s never really said anything,” she said. “I just feel like he’s only complained about Trump.”

O’Keefe said she’s never missed an election. Voting is important to her because it’s a way she and other voters can use their voice and influence.  

“It’s the only way we’re going to be able to tell them what we want,” she said. “If you’re not out here voting, then you shouldn’t have a say.”

Danny Royster, 57 

Royster, who lives in the 46202 zip code, said he’s been paying attention to judicial appointees — and knows that picks for the Supreme Court and lower appellate courts could affect generations to come. 

Although he’s confident in the current state of the economy, Royster said he’s disappointed in the way the U.S. handled the beginning of the pandemic and how it continues to affect Americans’ daily lives. 

“They should have knew it was coming way before it got here,” he said. 

He also expressed disappointment with Trump’s handling of questions regarding white supremacy and how he’s played down the risks associated with COVID-19. The president should have set a better example, Royster said.

“(Trump) should be the first one with a mask on,” he said. 

In Indianapolis, Royster said he hopes to see elected officials increase spending on infrastructure — citing the city’s lack of streetlights as an example. More broadly, Royster said he hopes to see communities begin to reevaluate policing and funding allocated for police departments to build bridges and improve community-police relations.

“If you take a look at most police forces, they’ve got military-grade hardware,” he said. “All that money spent on military-grade hardware should be going to help the people.”

Chase Rudner, 25

Chase Rudner, 25 (Photo: Provided by Aimee Custis Photography)

Rudner, who is a graduate student studying urban planning at New York University, has been splitting his time between Fishers and New York City and said he came home to Central Indiana to, among other things, vote. The two biggest issues he’s watching: climate change and the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“You can’t reconcile the economy without (reconciling) the pandemic,” he said. “And I think by working toward improving climate change, we can improve the economy. To me, there’s a handful of pieces that have to move in a certain order, but they can work together at the same time.”

Having spent the height of New York’s first wave in the city, Rudner said when he returned to Central Indiana in June, the difference in how the threat of the virus was being handled was striking. “Relative to New York, it just felt like it was completely back to normal, even with some of the safety precautions.” 

One thing he’s noticed about the state’s virus response: “Indiana was always on edge, just ready to reopen, disregarding the safety aspects that came along with it.”

Climate change has created an “immense” burden that has shifted to the shoulders of young people, Rudner said. He feels a responsibility to use his vote in a way that will positively effect the generations to come. 

“We’re gonna inherit whatever world comes out in the next 30 years of wildfires and hurricanes, increased storms and drought,” he said. “We inherit that.” 

He remembers hearing from people during the last presidential election who didn’t plan to vote because they didn’t feel it would make a difference.

“I think 2016 might have been the last election where people could just get away with the argument, by saying ‘Oh, my vote doesn’t really matter,'” he said. “That perception has changed a lot. People are a lot more motivated to vote because we realize the gravity of our votes and how that can truly change things.”

Adilene Vega, 31

Adilene Vega lives in Westfield and is a preschool teacher at Primrose School. 

Vega registered to vote and will be prioritizing issues that will affect future generations such as school safety during the pandemic and the environment, she said. 

“Some parents aren’t able to work right now. And some kids don’t have internet access at home or the equipment they need to do their school work,” Vega said. “Kids are home, then at school and then home again and I don’t think that’s working. And teachers are also being affected. We’re all struggling in some way.”

Vega believes her vote will make a difference. 

“Your vote counts. The future is always on my mind. What we do now will affect our kids and their future,” she said. “It matters. And remember that no matter who wins, we’re all on the same boat.”

Kenneth Yates, 60

Yates, who lives in the 46201 zip code on the city’s east side, said the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis is among the top issues driving him to vote this year. He said he’s also concerned about the way the postal service’s financial struggles and the conversation around mail-in voting will affect people living in the inner city.

But the biggest issue, Yates said, is that he wants to see an American president that represents “all the people,” not just some. 

Yates said the first presidential debate, which saw both candidates talking over each other and the moderator, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, illustrated Trump’s “rudeness,” which Yates said he felt was unbecoming of the presidency. However, one moment in particular stood out: Trump’s sidestepping questions regarding white supremacist groups. 

“He won’t say, flat out, ‘I refuse them, I despise them, I don’t want to have nothing to do with them.’ He just avoided the question,” Yates said. “That’s telling me that he kind of sways their way, that he’s with them.”

Furthermore, Yates said he’s concerned that the current administration has only been working to improve the lives of certain groups of Americans.

“It seems like he wants to persuade the rich and wealthy people in America,” Yates said. “That if you Black and living in poverty, (he) ain’t got nothing for you.”

Megan Zurawicz, 67

Zurawicz told IndyStar via email that she works full-time, but relies on Medicare and expects to rely on Social Security, so those are two of the issues that matter most heading into the next four years. Additionally, she works in the home and community-based services field, providing support for people with developmental disabilities. That, she said, is supported by Medicaid.

“So if that goes,” she said, “my job goes with it as well.”

As a queer personb, Zurawicz also has concerns about the GOP’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues, particularly when it comes to marriage.

“I’m not in nor planning to be in a relationship, but marriage equality still matters,” she said. “I have friends and family this affects.”

Election Day is Nov. 3, but early voting has already begun in Indiana. To learn when and where you can vote early in Indianapolis, visit

Contact Pulliam Fellow Lydia Gerike at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @LydiaGerike.

IndyStar reporter Natalia Contreras can be reached at 317-444-6187 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter, @NataliaECG.

You can reach IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at 317-444-6156 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.

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