With important federal and state elections just around the corner, consultants, politicians and pollsters are trying to make sense of Louisiana’s voter registration numbers, which have slowly been morphing into a new kind of southern electorate.
White voters remain the dominate force in the state, with a registration of 1.87 million, according to the latest tally from the Secretary of State’s Office. But the growth in this sector is flat, with only 10,000 or so new voters added over the past six years.
Black registration has grown more, and steadily, from 802,000 voters in 2000 to nearly 843,000 seven years later to 902,000 today.
In addition, voters defined as “other,” meaning neither white nor black, have jumped from 89,600 in the tally 13 years ago to 134,000 today. That’s a 49.5 percent increase in voters such as Hispanic and Asian-American citizens.
John M. Couvillon, president of JMC Enterprises, a Baton Rouge-based political polling firm, said it’s a notable shift in the numbers, but isn’t uniformly distributed throughout the state.
“While it’s true that Republicans nationally need to appeal to Hispanics and Asians, Louisiana isn’t one of those swing states right now,” he said. “But it may be eventually.”
Instead, Couvillon said the “other” registration, in regard to race, has seen double digit increases in small pockets around Kenner and Gretna, where they have become strong enough to swing elections for state House seats. Elsewhere, related voter turnout has been dismal at best.
“I think it’s a case of those voting groups not being connected enough and candidates ignoring them,” he said, adding the trend should spread more evenly over the next generation of voters.
The “Others” Rise Up
Then there’s the issue of party. Democrats have gone from a registration of 1.6 million in 2000 to only 1.3 million voters today.
While many might assume the Louisiana Republican Party picked up the slack there, the Republicans have only grown by 198,000 registrations over the past 13 years, to its current count of 806,500 members.
Still, for every year the Democrats lost numbers, Republicans gained them, resulting in an increase of 32 percent since 2000.
But, again, it’s the “other” sector that’s jumped the highest, going from nearly 497,000 registrations in 2000 to 714,000 at present. That’s a growth rate of 43.6 percent for those who’ve forsaken both Republicans and Democrats.
It’s also only 92,500 voters shy of what Republicans now boast — an achievement soured only by the fact that many registered Democrats in Louisiana actually vote Republican.
Kirby Goidel, director of LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, said there are so many different ideologies in the “other” party sector that it doesn’t often get the opportunity to affect statewide elections. But it’s recent growth certainly offers an impression of how voters feel about partisan politics.
“It’s a big indicator about how some people regard the two biggest parties,” Goidel said. “More and more, people are refusing to buy the brand.”
Record Number Of House Candidates
The 14 men who qualified for the Oct. 19 special election to replace Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, in the 5th District sets a modern record for the number of candidates in any Louisiana congressional race.
They include a public service commissioner making his 13th run for office, a state senator, three state reps, a mayor, a former state rep and a former Rand Paul organizer who was injured during an altercation with off-duty policemen at the GOP state convention last year.
There are five Republicans, four Democrats, three black candidates, two Libertarians, two independents, a Green Party contender and two entrants from Baton Rouge and New Orleans. A state resident doesn’t have to live in a congressional district to run for it.
Only one U.S. Senate race has drawn a larger field. That happened in 1996, when 15 ran, resulting in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s first federal victory. In the 1990 2nd Congressional District race, when former Congressman Bill Jefferson was first elected, 14 qualified but one eventually withdrew.
Setting another record is Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, 69, who’s making his tenth run for the U.S. House. Since 1980, he has run in four different districts — the 5th and 6th and the old 7th and 8th. He last won in 1990. He’s lost three times since by only one percentage point each time.
Gang Violence Could Become Legislative Focus
The newly appointed Gang Prevention Task Force has begun meeting with officials from the Attorney General’s office in hopes of presenting a comprehensive plan to lawmakers next year. Playing lead on the plan will be the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice and the Senate Committee on Judiciary C, which are expected to have recommendations from the task force by mid-January.
The task force is the brainchild of Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, who hopes that bringing together diverse law enforcement agencies will help the group combat gang violence in a holistic way. With Louisiana’s levels of criminal violence continuing to outpace the nation’s, he says new methods are needed to address organized activities that spawn serious threats to public safety.
“Crime doesn’t stop at parish lines and neither should law enforcement cooperation,” says Brossett. “Experience has shown that robust coordination will make our streets safer by focusing resources on specific, identifiable threats.”
Members of the task force include the Dept. of Justice, Louisiana Assoc. of Chiefs of Police, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Sheriffs’ Assoc., Louisiana District Attorneys’ Assoc. and several parish- and local-level authorities.
They Said It
“With Mary’s opponents stepping up their fundraising goals, we’re going to have to work harder than a dog trying to bury a bone on a marble floor to stay ahead.”
— James Carville, in fundraising letter to Democratic boosters
“Alcoholic friends are as easy to make as Sea Monkeys.”
— State Sen. Dan Claitor, via Twitter
“I’m guilty. I do the Taco Bell $2 meal deal. Note to self: it seems to taste better after midnight.”
— Claitor, again from his @DanClaitor account