Dec. 4, 2015 02:08 PM

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Five months before the Nov. 21, 2015 statewide election, Tyler Bridges of The Advocate wrote: “[T]he Louisiana Legislature… approv[ed]a $24 billion budget that takes effect July 1[2015]… Lawmakers voted to approve the budget — 80-19 in the House and 37-2 in the Senate — without a detailed explanation of what it contained.” Without any significant public transparency, Tyler Bridges added, “…next year’s governor and Legislature will inherit a budget deficit of an estimated $1 billion, documents show, and the size of the deficit is only projected to grow in the following years.”

In spite of the serious budget deficit problem facing the average Louisiana citizen, hardly any sustained debate was carried on about it between various political candidates seeking statewide offices, especially those running for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. More talk was focused on personality matters rather than on the social and economic problems facing the average Louisiana citizens today. That being so, the main question we raise here is in spite of the fact the average Louisiana citizen’s social, economic and health needs went largely unaddressed during the last statewide election cycle, did he or she — nevertheless — go out to their voting precincts in large numbers to vote for a change in the way state government was conducted during the last seven years of the Jindal administration?

To answer this question, the first thing must be done is to establish, based on published data, the total number of Louisianans who were eligible to vote on Nov. 21, 2015. According to Suburban Stats Report titled "Current Population Demographics and Statistics for Louisiana, 2015," the total population in Louisiana households was 4,405,945 by Nov. 21, 2015 — day of the last statewide election cycle. This total is further subdivided into the total number of males and females, regardless of race. Of the 4,405,945 Louisiana citizens, there were 3,290,774 males and females 18 years old and over, making them eligible to vote on Nov. 21. Therefore, the 3,290,774 Louisiana citizens 18 years old and over is the accurate number used to calculate the percent of the vote received by each candidate for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

These offices were selected for consideration because identified Louisiana citizens could vote for a candidate running for election to each office, regardless of the parish in which they currently reside. Now that we know how many Louisianans were eligible to vote on Nov. 21, an accurate picture emerges related to the percent of Louisiana citizens who actually voted for someone running for the statewide offices mentioned earlier.

The Daily Advertiser, published the day after the election, reported state Rep. John Bel Edwards received 56 percent of the vote cast to 44 percent for Sen. David Vitter. These percents were derived from the 646,860 Louisiana citizens, who voted for Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards, and from the 505,929 who voted for Vitter. Everything looks good on the surface, but there is one major problem with the published percent votes: They were derived from the total number of Louisiana citizens who voted for each candidate and not on the total number of eligible Louisiana voters. As it was reported, if we add the total number of Louisiana citizens together who voted in the Nov. 21 gubernatorial runoff, the total is 1,152,789. And, when this total number — 1,152,789 — is divided into the total number of votes each gubernatorial candidate received, it suggests a sizable number — 56 percent — of Louisiana citizens voted for governor.

In reality, the opposite is true. When we divided the 3,290,774 Louisiana citizens 18 years old and over into the total number of votes each gubernatorial candidate received, a much different picture emerges. On one hand, Governor-Elect Edwards actually received 19.7 percent of the total votes, and Sen. Vitter received 15.4 percent. Thus, when the number of Louisiana Citizens 18 years old and over who voted for governor on Nov. 21 is considered in isolation from the total Louisiana population 18 years old and over, it follows that the published percentages are grossly misrepresented, inflated and inaccurate.

Similar to the results for governor, the same pattern holds true for reporting of the results in the lieutenant governor and AG races.

As reported, 1,135,025 Louisiana Citizens cast a vote for lieutenant governor. Using this partial figure, and not the 3,290,774 figure to calculate the percent of the votes received by each candidate, the percentages reported are similarly skewed. As it was, Lt. Gov.-Elect Billy Nungesser received 628,693, or 55.4 percent of the votes cast, and Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden received 506,332 or 44.6 percent. On the surface, these numbers suggest a credible voter turnout in the “tax break giveaways” and “budget cutting” climate of the Jindal administration. Upon closer observation, we discovered Nungesser actually received 18.5 percent of the possible total votes cast, and Holden 15.4 percent.

For AG the pattern is the same. Attorney Gen.-Elect Jeff Landry was reported getting 610,226 votes, or 56.3 percent, and incumbent AG James Caldwell received 473,677 votes, or 43.7 percent. When the 3,290,774 total Louisiana Citizens 18 years old and over figure is used to calculate the percentages, quite a different result is revealed. Landry actually received 18.5 percent of the vote of the total population 18 years old and over eligible to vote and Caldwell received 14.4 percent.

In each statewide race, the winning candidate received less than 20 percent of the votes of the 3,290,774 Louisiana citizens 18 years old and over.

Dr. Lionel D. Lyles is a retired geography and social sciences professor who resides in Acadiana.

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