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2016 versus 2020: Shades of difference leave Indiana still red, Monroe County still blue



Monroe County, Indiana – From 2016 to 2020, not a lot changed in the general election results in the state of Indiana for the top of the ticket.

In the Hoosier state, Republican Donald Trump had 57.1 percent of the vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Against Joe Biden, Trump tallied about the same percentage—just one-tenth of a point lower.

But Biden did 3 points better than Clinton, with 41 percent compared to Clinton’s 38 percent. In 2016, Libertarian Gary Johnson drew almost 5 percent of the vote.

The county-by-county tally yielded a different winner in just one of Indiana’s 92 counties. In Tippecanoe County, Biden squeaked out a 0.2 point margin over Trump, a place where Trump was four points better than Clinton four years ago. That made a total of five counties blue this year, compared to four in 2016.

But the shades of difference across counties give some insight that might not be apparent from statewide or county totals.

To get a better idea of where things improved for each party, The Square Beacon plotted the difference in margins between 2020 and 2016 for the presidential race in those years.

In the shaded maps of presidential race results that are published with this article, red indicates that Trump’s margin compared to Biden was better than Trump’s margin compared to Clinton. Darker shades of red indicate a better margin for Trump in 2020 than in 2016. Blue means that Trump’s margin compared to Biden was worse than his margin compared to Clinton.

Put another way, blue means improvement for the Democrat from 2016 to 2020. Red means improvement for the Republican.

Statewide, a couple of general patterns seem evident. The northwest corner of the state showed some improvement for Trump. It’s a traditionally strong area for the Democratic Party.

After reviewing the statewide shaded map, Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jennifer Crossley said, “My hometown county, Lake County, is getting increasingly red and that is also the area in which we lost state house seats that we should have kept.”

Seats that flipped from Democrat to Republican in the 2020 election included Districts 15, 19 and 7.

On east and west edges of the state, Trump’s margin improved.

The Democrat Party’s candidate improved in one general area where the party is typically strong—Marion County, which is the denser, urban center of the state, home to Indianapolis.  But that improvement extended to surrounding counties as well.

A notable exception to that geographic trend is Morgan County, which showed the biggest improvement for Trump of any county in the state. In 2016, Trump had 23,671 votes (66.8 percent) to Clintons’ 10,037 (28.3 percent). In 2020, Trump had 27,512 votes (76.1 percent) compared to Biden’s 7,781 (21.5 percent).

That made Trump’s margin in Morgan County 16 points better in 2020 than it was in 2016.

Some possible insight into that trend comes from state house representative Republican Peggy Mayfield. She won re-election to the District 60 seat over Democrat Tiffany Grant by a 63.5 percent to 36.5 percent margin. District 60 includes Morgan county and the city of Martinsville.

Mayfield told The Square Beacon it may have been a highly contested local school board race that drew Republicans to the polls, even though school board races are non-partisan. Three open seats were on the ballot, and two of the incumbents were seeking re-election.

Winning seats were Jacque Deckard, Matt Hankins and Heather Staggs, all with at least 60 percent of the vote in their districts. “Even though it’s a non-partisan race, the winning candidates are well-known Republicans,” Mayfield said.

About the trio’s coordinated campaign, Mayfield added, “Their campaign had a total of 79 volunteers working the 14 polls on election day.”

Working all the polling locations in-person—on election day and through the whole 28-day period of early voting—was a strategy deployed by a few candidates in Monroe County. Every day when The Square Beacon checked in at early voting in downtown Bloomington, MCCSC school board candidate April Hennessey or a volunteer with her campaign was there holding a sign. Hennessey won her race over incumbent Sue Wanzer.

Also consistently represented at the early voting polling site in Monroe County were the two candidates for the Division 8 circuit judge seat: Democrat Kara Krothe and incumbent Republican Judith Benckart.

Monroe County GOP chair William Ellis told The Square Beacon that Benckart had a strategy to target absentee and early voters.

Benckart lost the race to Krothe by a 42-percent to 58-percent margin. But that was more than 3 points better than Republican Lamb polled against Democrat Geoff Bradley.

Even though Benckart was there every day engaging voters and teaching voters about the role of local judiciary, “It seems that only 3 percent of early voters were persuadable,” Ellis concluded.

Ellis said the turnout efforts made by the party did show up in the results. He said the party registered around 1,500 people to vote this year.

That’s about the same as the increased tally this year for Trump in Monroe County, compared to 2016. Four years ago, 20,527 Monroe County residents cast a ballot for Trump compared to 22,071 in 2020.

That raw numerical improvement for Trump did not translate into an improvement in the margin between Trump and the Democratic Party’s candidate. Biden’s tally in Monroe County was 39,861 in 2020, which was about 5,000 more than Clinton’s.

In Monroe County, that meant Biden did about five points better than Clinton four years ago.

Ellis concluded that in Monroe County at least, Democrats were more motivated to vote than in 2016.

The countywide precinct-by-precinct map shows that the improvement by the Democratic Party’s candidate was not uniform. Inside the city of Bloomington, a substantial swath of precincts in the south central part of town showed little change. Trump showed a slight improvement in the west side of the county.

The one outlier precinct for margins in Monroe County was Richland 9, which had two people vote in 2016, both for Clinton. In 2020, turnout for that precinct increased by one, and the tally was 2 to 1 for Biden. That meant a 67-point improvement for Trump.