On October 1, 2015 there were 2,893,282 people registered to vote in Louisiana. In yesterday’s election, 1,113,475 votes were cast. That is a turnout of about 38%. The turnout dropped to 31.7% here in Orleans Parish. I’m embarrassed to report there were only 112 votes cast in my precinct.
My parents were chronic voters even when we were stationed overseas. I learned at a young age that voting is both a duty and obligation.
My first vote was cast in 1990, the year Jesse Helms of North Carolina ran a terrible race baiting campaign against Harvey Gantt for US senate. That was also the first time I volunteered for a campaign. We lost that battle but I became a foot-soldier for democracy.
I soon to moved to Washington, DC where I was deprived of full voting representation in Congress (the District’s only voice in Congress is a non-voting delegate) and had only limited home rule (Congress can overturn all the laws passed by Washington DC’s elected city council, all the actions of its elected mayor, and even the interpretations of its laws by DC judges). While I was there, I fought for statehood and continued to vote in every election anyway.
Many American citizens beyond just those in the District of Columbia face significant barriers to voting despite the 1965 passage of the Voters Right Act. It seems crazy that in 2015 discriminatory practices still exist (see Alabama, Louisiana, etc for recent examples).
Our youth and those who are less-educated and/or from lower-income brackets are most likely to be disenfranchised from the voting process. These voters in particular need help learning what’s on the ballot and, crucially, understanding the impact of the election on the issues they care about.
The influx of corporate contributions since the Citizen’s United decision has made it harder for voters to get information free from the corrupting influence of billions of dollars of corporate money in local, state and federal elections. The SuperPAC’s which arose as a result, promote attack ads that serve to drive down voter turnout (negative political advertisements diminish voter turnout by reducing voters’ faith in the electoral process and their sense of efficacy in the outcome).
When voters stay home from apathy or alienation or discrimination, we all lose.
Perhaps we could get more people to vote if we had a better word for those folks who get out there, rain or shine, in sickness or health, for every election instead of the current term of ‘chronic voters.’
We need a celebratory word. Something we could wear as a badge of honor rather than something that is most often put before disease, habits or weakness.
Likely voters need something with a more positive connotation. Maybe persistent. Or recurrent. Or even perennial.
I kind of like the idea of calling us sustaining voters. Think of how non-profits benefit from those kinds of donors. Wouldn’t we all gain from the sort of people who invest in our democracy by being sustaining voters?
Don’t you want to be a sustaining voter, too?
The Louisiana general election will be held on Saturday, November 21st. Early voting is November 7-14 (except Sunday and holidays) from 8:30 am to 6 pm.
Please, please, please – Geaux Vote!