Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: Relax, Mickey doesn't vote here
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|Relax, Mickey doesn't vote here|
This is one of those elections where the old bromide--"It all depends on who turns out"--doesn't apply. They're all turning out, all races and parties, as record-breaking early voting foretells a record turnout on Tuesday.
The state record is 1.943 million votes cast in the 2004 presidential race, which was a 66 percent turnout. This time, a predicted turnout of 70 percent or higher would easily crack the 2 million mark.
One pleasant surprise in pre-election figures is that, despite continued out-migration and the depopulation in the New Orleans area from Hurricane Katrina, voter registration stayed about the same statewide, up 1,736 from four years ago.
But for aggressive voter registration efforts this year--both organized and individual--Louisiana would have seen a sharp drop in voter rolls. The 180,000 inactive voters purged from the rolls in the last four years were balanced out by an influx of new voters. Over 97,000 were added in the last year alone, nearly half of them African-Americans drawn to vote for Barack Obama.
So the Obama effect has compensated somewhat for the Katrina effect, which was supposed to make Sen. Mary Landrieu vulnerable to Treasurer John Kennedy due to her diminished New Orleans base. Yet, despite positive polls, she still has cause for concern, because no one is sure how many are around to vote there.
The rolls show almost 280,000 registered voters in New Orleans, which is greater than current estimates of the population. The process for removing the names of inactive voters who moved after Katrina won't run its course until after the 2010 elections. Until then, Tuesday's vote will provide the best snapshot of the New Orleans electorate and the hometown margin it will provide to Landrieu.
As for the new voters, most signed up on their own or through drives conducted by the two parties and many community-based groups. But it was a massive Louisiana registration project financed by national Democrats that generated more heat and hard feelings than actual new voters.
Before ACORN made national news with voter drives that produced many duplicate or bogus applications--from Mickey Mouse to the Dallas Cowboys--a group called Voting Is Power did much the same thing here this summer, nearly overwhelming the registrar offices in the largest parishes.
The many fake and duplicate forms turned in triggered an ongoing investigation by the secretary of state and a recent call by Sen. David Vitter for a federal probe. But the alarm raised over the threat to the integrity of the vote, while good campaign fodder, is little more than that.
"Those people don't get on the rolls," said Secretary of State Jay Dardenne of fictitious applicants. He is confident that parish registrars have ferreted out virtually all the illicit applications to prevent them from becoming registered voters.
Dardenne and registrars believe the root of the problem is money, from groups like VIP that are paid to register voters to the canvassers who are hired and given quotas. Besides bogus forms, many others were duplicates or had incomplete information. A large number of applications were signed by ex-felons, but they did not include the required document of release from the Department of Corrections. Registrars make an effort to retrieve missing information from applicants but often don't hear back from them.
Rather than voter fraud, the real harm is to overworked registrar offices as well as to applicants who think they are registered to vote but aren't. That could lead to further delays and some heated discussions at already crowded polling places. Angry ex-felons at the polls: not a pretty thought.
Caddo Parish Registrar Ernie Roberson would like to see the Legislature pass a law to require paid groups to register with the state before conducting drives. He says much abuse could be stemmed if the law required paid workers to sign as witnesses on the application forms they collect. Any changes in registration laws would have to be cleared by the U.S. Justice Department. These are worth debating.
Until then, there is no basis for ballot fraud paranoia. There are times it seems that government is run by Mickey and the gang, but election day here isn't one of them. Y'all go vote.