Voter apathy is showing this election cycle, with almost half of all incumbent officials winning another term without opposition, about 14,000 fewer voters than last year casting early ballots and the Secretary of State’s Office estimating the voter turnout for the primary at less than 50 percent.
But major races to replace Lafayette Parish’s four-term sheriff and three-term city-parish president may lead to higher levels of voter participation, said Jeremy Alford, editor and publisher of LaPolitics Weekly.
“The voter turnout is probably going to be a little bit higher than the state average,” Alford said.
Alford and Pearson Cross, associate dean of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette College of Liberal Arts and an associate professor of political science, spoke about state and local elections Monday at the Acadiana Press Club luncheon.
Cross said Lafayette Parish is now involved with “one of the most exciting” races it’s seen in a while, with no incumbent vying to replace the parish’s top two elected positions.
But at the state level, because a “wounded” candidate like U.S. Sen. David Vitter is considered a front-runner in the governor’s race — with the 2007 controversy involving his involvement with a Washington prostitute service still under discussion — it casts a shadow on the vibe of Louisiana’s election season, Cross said.
“I think it has kind of a depressing effect on the election as a whole. It kind of takes the shine off of a new, hope-filled future,” Cross said.
The 2015 elections are marking another shift in Louisiana politicking, with super PACs dominating campaign finances more than ever before, changing the tone of elections, Alford said.
“This is an election cycle that’s going to change Louisiana politics for years to come,” Alford said, with more outside money coming into local races.
Alford also said data and metrics are playing a larger role in campaigns.
Rather than the traditional image of politicians showing face at community events and meetings, technology is allowing campaign managers to send their candidates to the specific neighborhood or demographic needed to win votes, Alford said.
But the apathy trend still begs a question, he said: “Is it that people aren’t interested in Louisiana politics, or they just choose to ignore it?”
The primary election will be held Saturday, with the general election set for Nov. 21.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook .