It seems every few weeks there is an election in Louisiana. Whether it is a special election or a school board wants to pass a tax issue, voters are being overloaded with too many elections.
This causes voter fatigue and low turnout as citizens become tired of continually going to the polls. Ideally, Louisiana should have one or two election days per year and a combination of issues should be placed on a ballot together. Instead, we have the current situation where a school board can place a tax issue on the ballot with nothing else to attract voters to the polls.
For example, last weekend in St. Tammany Parish, the school board engineered a low turnout election. The board forced an election that featured only three public education items, including one that was a property tax increase.
Not surprisingly, only a few St. Tammany Parish voters went to the polls because there was nothing else on the ballot. The school board was able to mobilize their supporters to vote and was successful in getting their tax approved as the opponents were not funded or energized. If the election would have featured more items on the ballot and more voters participated, the tax issue would have surely failed.
While St. Tammany Parish voters were once again manipulated by the influential political forces that have been dominating the parish for decades, the voters in Jefferson Parish are not as gullible. In fact, there is a voter revolt ongoing in Jefferson Parish as people are sick and tired of the "establishment" and have started to vote "no" on a regular basis. All of the tax renewals failed, as did the tolls on the Crescent City Connection.
In Jefferson Parish, the controversial toll issue and a heated judicial race helped increase turnout slightly. In contrast, St. Tammany voters only had a few school board issues on the ballot, which guaranteed a low turnout. Whenever these types of taxes are proposed, they tend to be placed on the ballot on an obscure election date solely for the purpose of passing the tax while the majority of voters are asleep.
This obscene practice must come to an end. In the past few years, we have made some progress. Secretary of State Tom Schedler was successful in passing legislation that limited the number of elections. No longer will there be Louisiana elections scheduled in the months of January or July. Much more work needs to be done as we should eventually consolidate the election calendar to just a few dates per year
The Louisiana way is not working, we cannot afford it. According to Schedler, each election costs taxpayers approximately $1,250 per precinct. In a state with budget woes, eliminating unnecessary elections would save taxpayers millions of dollars. Schedler found that in a recent five year period, Louisiana held 70 elections, the most in the south, and the third highest in the entire nation. The southern state with the next highest number of elections was Georgia with only 36 in that five year period, one half of our total.
Louisiana voters love politics and we have a very interested electorate, as 84 percent of eligible voters are registered. However, it is unfair that these voters are repeatedly asked to go to the polls.
Each election must be approved by the governor, so he can stop the madness by refusing to allow so many special elections. In addition, the Louisiana Legislature should vote to drastically reduce the election calendar. This will provide relief to taxpayers, ensure higher turnout in the elections that are scheduled and guarantee results that truly reflect the wishes of the electorate and not just a few political insiders.
Jeff Crouere is the Host of "Ringside Politics," which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the political analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and a columnist for selected publications. For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.