From all official accounts, the turnout in this Saturday’s governor’s election primary will be between 45 percent and 50 percent of the state’s registered voters. Polls show that voters are not yet engaged in this election, despite the high stakes and the importance of giving this critical job to the right person.
As usual, many voters are surely asking themselves if their vote would truly matter. Does one person’s decision to vote make any difference? Well, yes, it does — and not in the way the civics teachers always tell us.
Sure, there are the usual examples of the elections decided by less than a dozen votes. There is the 2000 presidential election, decided in Florida by less than 600 votes. There are many elections in Louisiana that are decided by one or two votes per precinct.
So, yes, the individual act of voting can and does make a difference.
But if you are thinking about not voting on Saturday, consider another reason to change your mind: Your decision to boycott the election could be a profound statement about your rejection of majority rule. In effect, you are saying that you are fine with a small minority of voters picking our next governor.
As of January 2015, Louisiana’s voting-age population was 3,536,183. Those are the people in Louisiana, age 18 and older, who are qualified to vote (i.e., U.S. citizens, residents of Louisiana, not in prison, or who have not had their voting rights revoked).
Of that voting age population, 2,893,282 people were registered to vote in Louisiana as of Oct. 1, 2015. In other words, 82 percent of those eligible to vote are registered to vote.
Of that number, only about 45 percent to 50 percent will vote on Saturday, according to the Secretary of State’s office (which has usually been accurate in its predictions of voter turnout).
Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that the number will be on the higher end, at 50 percent. That means that about 1,446,000 people will vote for governor and other offices (although the down-ballot percentages usually drop off).
Or, put another way, only 41 percent of Louisiana’s voting-age population will participate in Saturday’s election.
Now, let’s assume that Sen. David Vitter gets 30 percent of the vote on Saturday, which would undoubtedly be enough to put him into a runoff.
With a 50 percent turnout, 30 percent of the vote would be 433,992 votes. That means that Vitter would win a spot in the runoff by winning only 12 percent of the state’s voting-age population. Let’s say that Rep. John Bel Edwards makes the runoff with 40 percent of the vote (578,656 votes). That’s only 16 percent of the state’s voting-age population.
And, then, no matter who gets into the November runoff, he will likely win the election with no more than 55 percent of the vote, maybe less.
Assuming the same turnout rate, winning 55 percent of the vote would mean that our next governor could be chosen by 796,000 voters, or just 22.5 percent of the state’s voting-age population.
In other words, by not registering to vote and by boycotting Saturday’s election, you will cede important decisions about health care, higher education, transportation and taxes to a small minority of the state’s voting-age population.
There are some candidates who undoubtedly hope you will not vote on Saturday. They are fine with something less than majority rule. They are pleased with your apathy.
Don’t reward them. Go vote.