There’s no majority rule in Louisiana elections: Why you should vote for governor on Saturday

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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.

Consider this:

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.

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12 Responses to There’s no majority rule in Louisiana elections: Why you should vote for governor on Saturday

  1. Stephen Winham says:

    You’ve got my head spinning and I’m kind of a numbers guy 🙂 Seriously, you make a critical point and we have to hope people heed your advice. This very important election has generated way too much apathy – if it is possible to generate apathy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary A Sternberg says:

    Good piece…I put the link on my Facebook page.

    Like

  3. Sometimes we think it is run-of-the-mill apathy. In reality, it is a coldly calculated strategy by one political faction to discourage citizens from voting. It’s hard for your message of civic responsibility to be heard over the din of millions of dollars being spent to implement voter obstacle courses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Matthew Walton says:

      As a member of my Parish Board of Election Supervisors, I’d be interested to hear you opine on the nature of these “voter obstacle courses.” In a state where nearly 90% of age-eligible persons are registered to vote, it’s going to be difficult to convince intelligent people that voter suppression exists. It is EASY to vote here. To argue otherwise is pointless. Failure to exercise the right to vote should be criminal.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. jechoisir says:

    Where I live, in North Louisiana, it is not apathy of any kind: it is genuine confusion. Excepting Vitter (and I can’t tell where his vote is coming from up here or if it’s coming), the candidates have not sufficiently distinguished themselves from one another on key issues to make most voters who are voting man, not party, comfortable in settling on one. Most voters seem aware of the importance of getting the right man in office this year, but they are not sure who that man is.

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  5. Bob in BR says:

    We voted early as we usually do but irregardless we always vote. It’s your only say in the matter regardless of how insignificant one may think it is. To jechoisir: I can’t understand how anyone can claim confusion. All of these people (for governor) are current elected officials with very real track records and this is how we chose Edwards due to his outspoken opposition and votes to the destructive tenure of the new Iowan Jindal. It can only be ignorance or apathy on their part. Our limited exposure to meaningful debates with ALL candidates present or the ridiculous smear commercials we are inundated with won’t provide accurate reflections of expectations. Actions speak louder and people must do a little homework and they will find the answers they need, unless of course you are Vitter and have good reason to conceal your self from public perusal.

    We also found while voting that if you are 65 or older or disabled you can complete a form which will allow you to vote by mail, and I think Internet, in the future. The state seems to really go all out to encourage everyone to vote. I hope everyone takes advantage of your right to vote. If not, your right to complain is hollow and meaningless.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. jechoisir says:

    Bob in BR, it is neither ignorance nor apathy that leaves many undecided at this late date. I think it is knowledge. That Mr. Edwards so openly opposed Governor Jindal does not prove to me that he is THE man for the job. His party affiliation more or less made that obligatory. I’m more impressed that he favors stricter usury laws, less impressed with the block votes that will encumber him—-particularly the teacher unions. The people I know will vote, but with critical reservations.

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    • Bob in BR says:

      jechoisir, I mean no offense and hope that everyone takes advantage of the privilege of voting. I agree with you that Edwards may not be the man for the job but after careful consideration of the candidates running he was our choice, which may not be yours. Truth be told I feel it will take much more than one man to reverse the precarious position that Jindal, with a complicit legislature, has placed our state in. Quite a number of leges with a D behind their name fell in line behind Jindal compounding our problems.
      I do stand by my statement that all of the major candidates are currently active elected officials with public records available and I encourage all to look into them independent of debates and commercials, neither of which will give you the “whole story “. I wish my reservations had been more critical in 2007 when I voted for Jindal for the first and last time. I apologize to all for my blunder there, of which there have been plenty. I rolled the dice on Jindal and got burnt. Now I’ve rolled the dice on Edwards and hope luck changes for this registered Independent.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. John-Christopher Ward says:

    I do hate to quibble, but the 2000 election was not determined by 600 votes. It was determined by the Supreme Court. The Florida vote count was later finished with Gore winning.

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  8. leekhoury says:

    Great article and I sent it to the people who I know need a gentle reminder. Apathy is a convenient word for people who do not care or simply do not feel their vote is important.
    . I believe it is our responsibility to instill in our children what the right to vote really means and more importantly how lives were given to allow us that right. My 20 year old daughter who is currently attending a LA. State University told me today she had researched the four leading candidates for governor. She said she was most impressed with State Senator Edwards. Now this young woman has been taught that one should be willing to cross party lines if morals and principles align with the candidate based on their record.
    She also knows that folks in LA. are capable of criticism if voting outside of republican party. And yet she found the candidate whom she most believes in.
    I told her how proud I was of her for seeking out the facts which will not be found from television ads nor from opinions of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • earthmother says:

      the professor who asked students if they knew the difference between ignorance and apathy received this response: We don’t know, and we don’t care.

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  9. John Toliver says:

    No facts presented on this, but I am guessing that most of those who do vote are educated and have given some thought as to who and why they will vote for a given candidate. Hence we may at least have few educated voters making the decision rather than a large majority who do not pay attention to anything and vote for a name they have seen on TV, or as many do, vote party line regardless of the person or position taken.

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