Coming together to listen and learn

Indiana Town Halls is a new organization formed by a cross-partisan group of citizens and lawmakers intending to hold respectful, informative public forum dialogues between Congressional candidates, lawmakers and citizens.

In an era of adversarial hyper-partisanship, such events have become increasingly rare in Indiana. The resulting distance between Hoosiers and their representatives contributes – along with other factors – to a record of declining participation and trust in Indiana elections and Congress.

Indiana Town Halls believes that by bringing candidates/lawmakers and citizens together in an atmosphere less contentious than a traditional debate, both can learn from each other and build mutual trust.

Because the Fifth Congressional District is likely to be the most intensely contested federal election in Indiana in 2020, Indiana Town Halls is making its pilot efforts in that district’s primaries and general election. Our immediate goals are to enable citizens to listen to candidates’ answers to moderator and citizen questions; to learn about candidate values, ideas and motivations; and to choose candidate(s) likely to earn their vote.

Our long-term vision is that a half dozen or so cross-partisan congressional Town Hall forums will be held annually in each district in both election and off-election years. These forums would be sponsored by local coalitions of civic learning non-profits (for example, the League of Women Voters, Chambers of Commerce), universities and community foundations. These local efforts would be supported by a state-level support entity (for example, the Indiana Debate Commission, The Indiana Citizen) dedicated to expanding civic learning beyond the classroom into non-traditional settings such as elections, social media, congregations and civic groups.

Indiana Town Halls is supported by lawmakers in both major parties as well as the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation, Inc., the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University-Ft. Wayne and WFYI Productions.