Are voters 'fatigued'?

by Walter Pierce

Secretary of State Tom Schedler points to too many elections in Louisiana - and at great public expense - for the low numbers.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Louisiana's chief election official, predicted late last week that voter turnout in the Nov. 19 runoff would be 20 percent or less - an abysmally low number. Schedler wasn't far off, and he points to too many elections in Louisiana - and at great public expense - for the low numbers, telling The Advocate, "I think you have a voter fatigue."

In Lafayette Parish, turnout for Saturday's races was better than Schedler's dire forecast, but not by much. Participation ranged from a low of 20 percent for Broussard's sales tax referendum - the Division M district judge race was barely better at 20.9 percent - to a high of 27.2 percent for the City-Parish Council District 6 seat. That district represents an older demographic, which tends to vote more regularly, so the number isn't surprising, but it's still low. Turnout parishwide for the Oct. 22 primary averaged about 33 percent.

Schedler points out that Louisiana held 70 elections between 2005 and 2010, although a new law should help eliminate some of the special legislative elections that contributed to the high number.

Former Secretary of State Al Ater, meanwhile, is urging the state to adopt more "user-friendly" mechanisms for voting such as allowing voting at shopping malls. "Short of candidates that people connect better to the next best thing is to bring the product to them," Ater tells the Baton Rouge newspaper, pointing to a sharp increase in voter participation in Las Vegas, Nev., after it adopted shopping-center voting.

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