Search This Blog


Canning July elections sensible but will face resistance

A couple of sessions ago the Louisiana Legislature did the right thing in getting rid of (on the second try after a veto by Gov. Kathleen Blanco) the January state/local election date. Before his wreck, Sec. of State Jay Dardenne suggested the same treatment for the July date, and the reasons for that are much the same as compelled elimination of the January date.

These dates are established to allow local governments to bring forth ballot propositions, almost always dealing with tax matters. To conduct an election it costs the state money, at least $500,000 a pop, and local governments also must contribute, so consolidating elections around another date would save taxpayer dollars. Three other slots, March/April, October, and November, are available (a fourth, February, if you live in Orleans Parish) and there are few situations where a government would need money so quickly that it couldn’t wait at most a half-year for an election.

But what if something of an emergency nature did come up? Well, R.S. 18:402(F)(7) already accounts for that, allowing a local government to call an election with two-thirds concurrence of the State Bond Commission. Further, July elections historically have abysmal turnouts, never higher than 11 percent this millennium with the most recent barely half of that, making them even less-cost effective.

However, expect resistance from local governments. They bank on low turnouts to help pass taxing measures which typically redistribute taxpayers’ funds from a large pool to a small group. They anticipate that among the group that will receive the money (employees from salary increases, contracting interests for construction, organizations that get dedicated funds, etc.) very high turnout in favor will be enough to outpace scattered opposition from the low proportion of the general public that will vote because usually these measures stand alone or have just a few grouped together, with no high-stimulus matters or electoral contests also on the ballot to encourage turnout.

Given its extra cost and the small effort it would take local governments to plan ahead, there’s no logical justification to keep the July date. Yet if Dardenne and/or others push this, look for local governments to find all sorts of political considerations to oppose this very sensible idea.

No comments: