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Despite win margin, Edwards received no mandate

As part of their plan to control government, State Rep. John Bel Edwards and state Democrats will try to convince the world that he received a mandate with his election to governor. Some already have bought into that. Don’t, because it was not.

When Gov. Bobby Jindal won reelection four years ago, from some came the opposite reaction, that despite his winning about two-thirds of the vote without even having to endure a runoff this did not constitute a mandate, which is large and widespread agreement with a candidate’s agenda that the electorate wishes to see enacted or continued. Analysis of the election’s data and comparison of it to the 2007 results demonstrated a mandate existed, not just because of Jindal’s historic win margin but also as, even as turnout declined as a result of the uncompetitiveness of the contest at the top of the ballot, other more competitive statewide contests saw even steeper drop-offs in turnout. Further analysis showed reduced turnout for the governor’s race was more a product of satisfaction of the preceding four years that of disinterest.

By contrast, the 2015 election runoff, with higher overall turnout than in 2011 (keep in mind that typically turnout increases by roughly a half of a percentage point from state office general elections to runoffs; in this case, by that margin), displayed indicators of lack of voter enthusiasm for the contest. Interestingly, despite the more competitive nature of this contest versus the 2007 general election in which Jindal won an absolute majority and defeated his nearest competitor by 37 points, 145,000 more people voted in that election than in this recent one.

Further, 2015 elections had extraordinarily weak roll-off, or the tendency of voters increasingly to opt out of voting the farther down the ballot they go. In 2011, which like this year featured a competitive lieutenant governor’s race (the only one to appear on both elections’ ballots along with governor), the gap between votes for this office and governor was 74,000, and in 2007 (a somewhat less competitive race) it was 58,000, but this year it was only 17,000.

The larger the gap, the greater the interest in the governor’s contest. Higher disinterest can come from thinking neither candidate as acceptable and opting out of the election, in believing either candidate is acceptable and not caring who wins, or assuming one candidate will win and thereby for some voting becomes a waste of time. With the stark differences Edwards and his GOP runoff opponent Sen. David Vitter tried to make between each other and his 17-point lead from the general election, relatively lower turnout that this kind of race would suggest almost certainly came from a combination of voters seeing neither worth voting for or they thought before the runoff the race concluded already.

Unfortunately, the state has yet to produce final turnout statistics by different cohorts, but the answer as to why the governor’s race lagged in turnout relative to down-ballot items should be a disproportionate drop in Republican turnout in the entire electorate, because of a lack of enthusiasm for Vitter. More Republicans probably voted this election than in 2011, but the increased totals for white Democrats and especially blacks likely will end up proportionally higher.

In short, in 2011 because of Jindal’s monumental win, higher roll-off, and that some typical voters in past elections did not do so because they figured Jindal would win and supported him, that election produced a mandate for Jindal. In 2015, even with a 12-poinit victory margin, that did not give a mandate to Edwards as relative to the overall competitiveness of the election it had atypically low turnout, signaling not satisfaction but disgust with both candidates by a portion of the electorate that normally would vote or discouragement that their vote would not matter.

You can’t have a mandate without enough voter enthusiasm. While Democrats may try to propagandize Edwards’ election as a mandate for his and their policy preferences, the public and policy-makers should disregard such labelling of what in reality was an electoral fluke that shows no majority support for the left’s agenda.

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