Getting out the vote

Zachary Araki, A&E Editor

Although midterm elections this year select 506 political offices, voter turnout continues to lag behind voter registration.

“Voting is one of the most fundamental rights we hold as Americans,” said Public Information Director for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office Brandee Patrick. “It’s not something that we should take for granted. Men and women who have fought for this country afforded us this right to vote, and we should exercise that right each and every Election Day.”

For Patrick, veterans add another reason to vote.

“We should also vote in honor of veterans,” said Patrick. “We have a program here at our office. It’s called ‘Honor Vets…Vote!’ You can honor a veteran each and every election.”

According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout regularly drops from presidential to midterm elections. The 2012 presidential election exceeded the 2010 midterm election by 17 percent.

Although the presidential election is more popular, midterm elections carry political weight. The 2018 midterm elections select 35 U.S. Senate seats, all 435 U.S. House of Representatives seats and 36 state governor seats. Louisiana’s gubernatorial elections are held between midterm and presidential elections.

Patrick discussed voter turnout in Louisiana.

Patrick said, “Something that our office has consistently worked on over the past few years is reducing the number of special elections, trying to make going to the polls and exercising your right to vote not something that’s going to happen every time you turn around. Also, Louisiana has one of the highest registration rates in the country at 85 percent. However, our participation rates as you know have not been as high.”

The Louisiana Secretary of State 2018 “State Wide Post Election Statistical Report” showed that 10.24 percent of registered voters participated in the April 28, 2018 municipal general election while 16.45 percent participated in the Feb. 17, 2018 special primary election. In 2016, 67.79 percent of registered voters participated in Election Day.

A Pew Research Center analysis found that the four most popular reasons why registered voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election were a dislike for candidates or campaign issues, a lack of interest or a feeling that the vote would not make a difference, conflicting schedules, and illness or disability. The portion of registered voters who cited a dislike of the candidates or campaign issues for not voting reached a high in 2016 at 25 percent. In previous elections, between 8 and 13 percent of registered voters cited this as their primary reason for not voting.

Patrick explained the discrepancy between registration rate and participation rate.

“It’s really just a lot of things contribute to that on local levels and even in statewide races, candidate races, ballot items, propositions that affect each and every person in their daily lives,” said Patrick. “These are all important things that people should consider. Many elections are won by very few votes. So, people say that their vote does not matter, it’s not an accurate statement.”

Patrick shared how the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office aims to increase voter participation.

Patrick said, “We also have through our elections division and our voter outreach division opportunities where we educate Louisianians on the process and try to keep them knowledgeable of all the election dates and options that they have in voting so they can participate such as early voting, absentee by mail voting and several other programs for specific groups that they can utilize to cast their ballot.”

Various news media broadcast the Election Day results. Federal, state and local elected officials and their contact information can be found on the “How to Contact Your Elected Officials” page of the website.