State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: Louisiana

Welcome to the Jungle: Senate Majority May Come Down to Louisiana

By Staff Writer

Pundits have framed this year’s election cycle as having the potential to shift control of the United States Senate from Democrats to Republicans—and given the sheer number of close races across the country, nearly every seat in serious contention has the makings of being the deciding race. Due to Louisiana’s unusual election laws, however, the chattering class might not know which way the pendulum will swing until long after Election Day on November 4th. Continue reading

Scrutiny on Louisiana Congressional District

by Tobias Eisenlohr

A new study draws attention to the odd shape of Louisiana’s second congressional district as one of the least “compact” jurisdictions in the nation. Azavea, a geospatial data and web technology firm, released its findings on October 31, 2013, which analyzes the shape of all United States congressional districts and provides insight into the motivations and effects of redistricting. Rooted in geographic rather than demographic statistics, the study pinpoints a district’s physical “compactness” as an indicator of its status as gerrymandered. Compactness is defined by analyzing two factors: how far a district strays from a traditional circle or square shape, and how smooth its boundaries are. Encompassing nearly all of the city of New Orleans and stretching west past Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s second district consists of 1202 square miles and meanders in an odd “Zorro”-shape. Home to nearly 500,000 people (344,935 white and 153,908 black), the second district is the seventh-least compact congressional district in the nation. Overall, Louisiana ranked as the third-least compact state in the nation, leading only Maryland and North Carolina. Continue reading

Rumble Because of the Jungle: How the “Jungle Primary” has Lead to a Vicious Same Party Battle for a Congressional Seat

by Erica Woebse

In the contemporary era of American politics, Congressional races tend to be bitter partisan battles waged between one Republican and one Democratic candidate.  Third parties operate peripherally, typically only able to bring up issues for the major party candidates to address or maybe steal votes away from one of the major partisan contenders.  However, this has not been the case in the congressional race in district 3 of Louisiana.  In district 3, a vicious battle between two Republican incumbents forced the opposing Democratic candidate into the role so often reserved for third party contenders.

The November 6th election resulted in incumbent Republican Representative Charles Boustany winning 45% of the vote, while opposing Republican incumbent Jeff Landry, with strong support from the Tea Party and conservative Republican groups, captured 30%.  As dictated by the terms of Louisiana’s jungle primary system, because neither candidate captured a majority of the vote, these Republicans will be forced to square off again in a December 8th runoff election.  Many political commentators blame Democratic candidate Ron Richard for the need to hold a run-off election.  While Richard was an underdog to win the seat, the 24% of the vote he earned stole votes from the Republican frontrunners and prevented either Republican candidate from capturing a majority of the votes.    Continue reading

Geaux Vote (or Don’t): Exploring the Excessive Number of Louisiana Voters on the State’s Inactive Voter List

by Erica Woebse

In a state of four million people and two million registered voters, Louisiana lists a staggering 190,848 registered voters on the state’s inactive voter list. Called “notably high” by Times-Picayune Reporter Bruce Alpert, this number has sparked controversy and left residents wondering how and why almost ten percent of Louisiana registered voters are classified as inactive.

Karen Carter Peterson of the Louisiana Democratic Party fears people are being stripped of their right to vote without adequate notice. This fear echoes a larger national controversy regarding voter ID laws and the right to vote.  While Republicans allege new voter ID laws protect the integrity of elections and root out voter fraud, Democrats claim new laws, which require voters to show state issued IDs and purge inactive voters from election polls, are intended to discourage minorities and low income individuals from voting. Continue reading

What’s Geauxing On: Everybody’s Copying Louisiana?

When one thinks of Louisiana, the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is likely not “model for electoral reform.”  This, after all, is the electoral system that in recent years has brought a veritable parade of politicians whose terms in office have transitioned into terms in prison on corruption charges.  That’s why it may come as a surprise that there are movements afoot in states across the country to adopt the most unique element of Louisiana’s electoral system.

In 1976, Louisiana adopted a non-partisan blanket primary system for both its state and congressional elections.  Also known as an “open” or “top-two” primary, this unique system puts candidates of every party on the same ballot for the primary.  If any one candidate receives a majority of votes, that candidate is elected without any need for a general election.  If, as frequently happens when there are more than two candidates on the ballot, no candidate wins a majority of votes, the top-two candidates go on to a run-off general election. The goal of open primaries is to promote the election of more moderate candidates.  The theory, however, is controversial. Continue reading

Some will Win, Some will Lose, Some States are Born to Sing the Blues: The Coming Battle Over Reapportionment

The stakes are incredibly high, reapportionment is looming, and recent data from Election Data Services shows that neither Democrats nor Republicans will be too pleased come next year. States which have been recently labeled as ‘safe Republican’ in Presidential elections will gain seats, but in more Democratically inclined areas. States recently labeled as ‘safe Democrat’ in Presidential elections will lose some seats. The biggest gain will be in Texas. Texas can expect to gain four House seats, at least some of which will be placed in locations more favorable to Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, New York, a state typically labeled as ‘safe Democrat’ in Presidential elections, will likely lose two House seats. In terms of multi-district moves, Florida will likely gain two seats and Ohio will likely lose two seats. Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will all likely gain a seat while Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will all likely lose a seat.

Reapportionment is becoming a problem not only for certain Presidential candidates but also state and federal candidates, especially candidates in the Midwest where rapid population flight is decimating the electoral landscape. The close electoral math is mapping onto reapportionment strategy. Democrats and Republicans are locked in a mortal struggle to gain control of state houses and governor’s mansions across the nation, in anticipation of being able to influence the composition of both state legislatures and Congress over the next decade. Continue reading

Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– New Orleans has experienced a record number of early voters for its municipal election.  About 16,600 ballots have been cast already, compared to 12,850 early votes in the 2008 presidential election.  Experts speculate that the rise in early voting is because the election is scheduled for this Saturday, just one day before the Saints play in the Superbowl.

– A measure that would allow overseas voters to send their ballots by email has passed the Washington House, and is headed to that state’s Senate.

– A judge in New Jersey has ordered a panel of experts to evaluate the security of New Jersey’s 11,000 voting machines.  Some have criticized the ruling for not requiring that the machines be retrofitted to produce a paper trail.

– A corporation has announced its candidacy for Congress!  Murray Hill Inc. plans on filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District.  Feeling liberated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the corporation has decided to take the logical next step in their struggle for equal rights.  According to Murray Hill “It’s our democracy.  We bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

– The California governor’s race has taken a bizarre turn.  Steve Poizner, a Republican candidate, has accused his rival Republican Meg Whitman of trying to bully him out of the race.   Poizner claims that an e-mail sent to him from Whitman’s office violates four federal and state election laws.  A copy of Poizner’s complaint, including a copy of the email, can be found here.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Every week, State of Elections brings you the latest news in state election law.

– The U.S. Census bureau has released its population estimates, and if their estimates are correct, 8 states stand to gain Congressional seats in 2010, and 10 states will lose seats.

– An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times accuses Florida’s “No Match, No Vote” law of disenfranchising thousands of minority voters during the 2008 presidential election.  The law denies voter registration to any applicant whose name on the registration form does not match the Social Security or Florida driver’s license databases.

– The Supreme Court has held its last session of 2009, and still has not released its decision in Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission. The Court was expected to overrule existing precedents that allowed the government to limit the amount corporations could spend on campaigns.  However, the long delay has fueled speculation that the Court’s decision may not be as clear cut as expected.  For a review of the issues involved in Citizen United, see this transcript of oral arguments and this analysis of the possible implications of the case.

New Orleans Mayoral Race Post-Katrina

This year marks the 4th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. As the city of New Orleans moves towards recovery, it must start thinking about electing a new mayor. Actorruled himself out as a likely candidate, citing his controversial platform to legalize gay marriage and marijuana, and incumbent mayor Ray Nagin of “Chocolate City” fame is ineligible to participate due to term limits. Finding a field of eligible candidates may be difficult due to a protectionist provision in the City Charter which states:

“The Mayor shall be a citizen of the United States and a qualified elector of the City, and shall have been domiciled in the City for at least five years immediately preceding the election.”— New Orleans Home Rule Charter, Section 4-202.

Residents were not allowed to return home for over a month following Nagin’s mandatory evacuation order, and whether evacuees experienced a change in domicile during that mandatory evacuation may be an question in the upcoming April 2010 election. The issue is whether individuals can meet the length of residency requirement due to their voluntary displacement. Continue reading

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