Saturday’s election for governor attracted the fewest voters in at least 40 years.
Only 36 percent of Louisiana’s 2.8 million voters cast a ballot in the primary that elected Gov. Bobby Jindal for a second term, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Political experts attributed the apathy to a lackluster race featuring nine little-known candidates trying to oust a popular governor with a strong war chest.
“An awful lot of my friends didn’t vote,” former state Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown said Monday. “Members of my family didn’t vote. I gave them hell.”
Brown, a longtime Democrat, said he voted ahead of Saturday’s primary during early voting.
In all, 1,022,439 votes were cast in the governor’s race with Jindal garnering 65.8 percent of them.
For past governor’s races:
• Edwin Edwards alone got 1 million votes in 1983.
• 1.6 million voted in the 1987 primary that resulted in Buddy Roemer becoming governor.
• 1.3 million voted in 1999 when Mike Foster easily captured a second term.
Some voters in Saturday’s primary voted for governor and then skipped over the other statewide races. Only 31 percent voted in the secretary of state’s race.
More voters cast ballots for agriculture commissioner and insurance commissioner than for lieutenant governor, which is second in line of succession to the governor’s office.
University of New Orleans political science professor Ed Chervenak said Jindal still can claim a significant victory despite the low turnout.
“Anytime you get 65 percent of the vote, that’s a landslide,” Chervenak said.
The high-water mark in modern Louisiana voting history is the David Duke-Edwin Edwards runoff in 1991. More than 1.7 million voters participated. Edwards ended up collecting more votes in the general election than the total number of votes cast in Saturday’s governor election.
The 1991 runoff pitted Edwards, a longtime political figure who stood trial for bribery, against Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan member. Bumper stickers begged Louisianans to “Vote for the Crook, It’s Important.”
A dozen years later, 1.4 million voted when Jindal faced Kathleen Blanco in a runoff. Blanco won by less than 100,000 votes.
Jindal ran for governor in 2007 against two millionaires who largely self-financed their campaigns but attracted little of the vote. Jindal won the primary outright with 1.3 million casting ballots.
Chervenak said the lack of any real competition at the top of the ballot contributed to the low turnout for Saturday’s primary.
Jindal’s primary competition was Haynesville schoolteacher Tara Hollis, a political novice who got 18 percent of the vote.
Chervenak said the race for lieutenant governor, which pitted incumbent Jay Dardenne against Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, was highly negative, which likely turned away voters. The candidates took swipes at each other throughout the campaign.
He said voters also probably assumed Jindal would cruise to victory with or without their votes.
Jindal said the low turnout amounted to satisfaction among voters.
“I think, in general, people are pleased with the direction of the state,” the Republican governor said.
Brown said Democrats did not mount the get-out-the-vote efforts they traditionally do. The party is in the process of regrouping amid a surge in Republican Party dominance.
He said the governor benefited from hard work at fundraising and some luck.
“Although the governor can take pride in his easy reelection victory, when you look at the numbers, there was a major drop-off in voter participation,” Brown said.