Now remember that some 50% of adults over eighteen who could register have not done so. That means the less than 23% of Louisianans over eighteen bothered to show up at the polls to vote. And with a lack luster runoff for Secretary of State and a few other local races, projections are even lower for the runoff less than thirty days away. So how do we create more interest that will encourage a higher registration to vote?
First, eliminate all election dates but one. We have way too many elections. In the past year alone, Louisiana has held five different elections plus as host of local contests. All these special and local elections could wait until one election date a year. The savings to taxpayers would be some six million dollars.
And why have gubernatorial statewide elections in the fall to begin with? Many other states hold elections in the spring. Fall elections compete with LSU and Saints football along with fairs and festivals. A spring date would engender more interest.
Does anybody in Louisiana care there's an election in two weeks? The press does not cover political campaigns like they once did. This is a reflection of the financial cutbacks by newspapers, radio and TV stations across the state. Louisiana’s largest newspaper, The Times Picayune, now only prints three times a week.
Second, go back to party primaries. Louisiana is the only state in the nation that has our convoluted open primary system. When all candidates run in the same primary election, political parties become more irrelevant. But when candidates run within the old closed primary system, democrats and republicans alike are out working for their respective candidates in an organized fashion to get out the vote. The closed primary system generates a much greater interest.
Third, strictly enforce the laws that prohibit a candidate from coordinating with a third-party PAC. Millions of dollars poured into Louisiana from outside the state by sham PACs set up by the candidates. I’m against such PACs but the Supreme Court recently made them legal. Candidates are prohibited by law from any involvement or coordination. But both candidates and PACs regularly violate the law.
Without all this outside money, candidates will have to get back to “retail” politicking; showing up at fairs and festivals, riding in local parades, and re-engaging directly with voters. This will certainly create more interest on Election Day.
Forth, make voting easier. The world has changed in some many ways. You can buy, sell, conduct business, pay your bills and taxes, and interrelate in just about any possible way with the exception of how you vote. Why does one have to get in their car, drive to a polling location, wait in line, all just to vote? Isn’t it possible to design a system to allow voting electronically wherever you happen to be? If we can fly to Mars, we certainly out to be able to develop a secure system to keep out the Russians.
Fifth, let Hard-Working Undocumented Immigrants Vote: Just kidding. I wanted to see if you’re still paying attention.
But seriously, how about this idea. If we eliminate all these special elections, the state will save millions of dollars in elections costs. So let’s give some of those savings back. When a voter finishes cast their ballot, the system gives them a number. That’s right. A lottery number! The state takes $500,000 of that multi-million dollars savings, and the lottery picks twenty different voters to each receive $25,000 for being a winner in casting their vote. Think of the renewed interest and higher turnout that would take place.
Poll after poll indicates that Louisiana citizens have little confidence in how their state is being run. But the present system offers little incentive and too many roadblocks to make voting easier. Maybe a little creative thinking by new legislators in Baton Rouge could help in getting voters out of their current doldrums. There is really not much at stake. Well, except for the future of our kids and our quality of life.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.