By 4:30 p.m. Thursday, hundreds of individuals will have qualified for a variety of political races across the state.
The result will be an October ballot that, in some places in Livingston Parish, will sport double-digit measures for voters to decide – between statewide races for the loftiest positions in Louisiana, to parishwide races for similar positions … and don’t forget the constitutional amendments.
And that’s the way it should be.
The Bayou State has been plagued by tiny election after tiny election, and it happens with the runoff after primaries in October, and in the spring. Not only does it cost the state – read: the taxpayer – money, but it also creates relative voter apathy.
Last time this type of election cycle came around, in 2015, Livingston Parish turned out roughly 37 percent. In a parish with 78,526 registered voters that raw number isn’t so bad – just shy of 30,000. In 2016, for the presidential race, the turnout was almost 70 percent.
The good thing about both of those years was the high-profile elections brought out the voters, so the smaller races in the parish and municipalities got a fair chance at a good turnout and a strong representation of what voters wanted.
Mosquito abatement in spring 2019? Only 13 percent and a waste of taxpayer money.
That’s not to say that Councilmen Garry “Frog” Talbert and Maurice “Scooter” Keen shouldn’t have put it on the ballot, that’s irrelevant to this piece.
They should have never had the option for a spring election.
That measure should have, at earliest, been on this fall’s ballot. As mentioned, elections cost money, some of which is a cost-per-ballot-measure, and some of which is labor. Those labor costs could be drastically reduced if the number of elections held were cut, to say, every other year.
Consider a scenario where, in Louisiana, we voted once every two years and two years only. Every election cycle, your congressman would be on the ballot, along with local and state elections. Two years later, national elections and any added local elections. Two years later, back to statewide elections with local flavor.
In four years, the average voter could, technically, participate in eight elections under Louisiana’s current format. Under the proposed example, however, that number would be reduced to two.
Not only does that allow ballots to be more populated, it attracts voters who might not necessarily cast their vote on a specific item – but would venture out since they had another option that piqued their interest.
Mosquito abatement may not get them out, but a strong candidate for governor might.
Louisiana is going to have to change its election laws, one way or another, because the current format is unsustainable and unaffordable. Measures cannot go up for election and pass by sneaking them through off years anymore if a new system is put in place that required ballot items to have several races and incentives to draw citizens to the polls.
In order to have elections every other year, would you give your local officials an extra year in office? Or perhaps make them run a year early?
Either way, it’s worth the switch just to put a more desirable, sustainable voting practice in place for Louisiana, which desperately needs to find ways to save money, entice voter turnout, and remove the practice of “sneaking through” measures.
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.