Tomorrow is Election Day, and by all accounts Louisiana voters have a strong interest in the outcome. It might seem that interest is more intense this year – and certainly the shattering of early voting records tends to reinforce that idea – but in recent years, voters have consistently turned out in high numbers when choosing the country’s next president.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that Louisiana’s highest voter turnout would come in gubernatorial elections when the leadership of the state is on the line. After all, presidential elections provide little in the way of mystery around here. President Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 20-points in Louisiana in 2016 and that was seen as a big win.
But it’s often forgotten that Mitt Romney bested President Obama by 19 points and John McCain won by 17. Every Republican since 2004 has beaten his Democratic rivals in Louisiana by significant double digits. And what is interesting on top of that, is that voter turnout, no matter what the outcome, has remained consistently high for both parties.
Turnout in the 2016 presidential election which President Trump won was more than 67%. But it was also more than 67% in 2012 and 2008 and 66.9% in 2004.
Compare that to major gubernatorial races where the highest turnout of the 2000s was last year’s runoff between Governor John Bel Edwards and Eddie Rispone which managed a participation rate of only 51%. The turnout four years earlier was barely 41% and that was for an open seat.
The point is that it is somewhat ironic that voters turnout out in such high numbers for a presidential election, the results of which in Louisiana over the last two decades have become forgone conclusions, but participate at significantly lower levels when they have a more direct and impactful say in choosing who will lead the state. Hopefully, that is a lesson we can ponder in our state races and bring our participation levels up to what we see in national contests.
But the early voting numbers which shattered records this year do tell us that citizens are keenly interested in the outcome of this year’s election and they want their voices heard. That is a good thing, and we hope they will follow up by coming to the polls tomorrow.
It is worth noting that there are a lot of decisions for voters to make besides who the next president will be. Statewide there is a U.S. Senate race and a hotly-contested open House seat in the Fifth Congressional District. Of course, the five other House seats held by incumbents are also on the ballot.
In many areas there are key local elections, a large number of judgeships are being decided, and there are seven constitutional amendments to consider along with a local-option proposition dealing with sports betting. If you didn’t vote early, it’s not too late to check out CABL’s analysis and recommendations on the constitutional amendments. While seven amendments isn’t an overwhelming number, several of the ones this year are somewhat complicated and deal with areas that most citizens probably aren’t very familiar with.
Forecasters are predicting beautiful weather for Election Day across Louisiana and that should be one more reason to go to the polls, cast your vote, and make your voice heard. On behalf of CABL we encourage everyone who hasn’t voted yet, but still can, to exercise this most sacred of public rights and participate in a part of the democratic process that remains the envy of the world.