Voters across Baton Rouge and New Orleans cast their ballots on Tuesday, but many missed out on the coveted “I voted” stickers that have lit up social media as voters across the country show off the accessories as signs of civic participation — leading some voters to even create their own.
Brandee Patrick, public information director for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, said Tuesday that “budgetary constraints” prevented the Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office from providing stickers despite the high-stakes midterm elections. The lack of stickers at her polling place in the lower ninth ward of inspired New Orleans voter Stephanie Kauffman to return home; use the last of her sticker paper; print out red, white and blue stickers with stars on them; and drop off 300 of them at her voting location for those who came after her.
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“They are nothing fancy but they work for a simple selfie,” Kauffman said. “I just figure I’d mention it because I hate when a problem arises with no solution. I tried to make a solution today."
“I voted” stickers became especially popular in Louisiana after the iconic 2016 edition featured a George Rodrigue blue dog and started selling on sites like E-Bay. The Secretary of State's office paid $21,000 for 4 million of the famous blue dog stickers in 2016, former Secretary of State Tom Schedler told the Baton Rouge Press Club when the design was unveiled.
While those stickers were extra special, it’s common for Louisiana polling places to provide standard “I voted” stickers — often with a blue background and gold lettering — on election days. Some voters in Lafayette received those plainer stickers on Tuesday, but many voters in Lafayette and New Orleans did not receive them. Poll workers at Baton Rouge’s BREC Extreme Sports Park on Perkins Road said Tuesday that they were never been provided with the stickers this year, though early voters received them.
“Our office sent out Blue Dog stickers in 2016 as a participation initiative, but has not provided them other than that election due to budgetary constraints,” Patrick said.
Put an iconic blue animal on "I voted" stickers, sit back and see what happens.
Asked about the cost of Election Day stickers, Patrick said the Secretary of State's office would not be able to provide that information Tuesday because workers in the accounting division were off for the state holiday. But she said the Secretary of State's office maintains no dedicated budget for Election Day stickers. Patrick added that the Secretary of State's office had "no knowledge" of stickers at polling places that some Lafayette voters received on Tuesday.
This is the first major election for acting Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who is running for the permanent position. The state recently paid nearly $150,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against Schedler, who resigned earlier this year amid the sexual harassment allegations. Ardoin stepped into the job after Schedler left and insisted multiple times that he would not run for the seat this fall before reversing course.
At least one of Ardoin’s Secretary of State challengers, State Rep. Rick Edmonds, turned the stickers into a campaign issue Tuesday. Edmonds posted on social media that he would not use Secretary of State resources to campaign, and that he would put the money toward making stickers more widely available.
After complaints about the lack of stickers surfaced on social media, the Secretary of State’s Office initially said that local clerks of court were responsible for providing stickers. But Baton Rouge Clerk of Court spokesman Fred Sliman said Tuesday that the Secretary of State’s office was responsible for them.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler plans to give each voter a sticker of the famous “Blue Dog” saying "I voted."
The Secretary of State’s office deleted a tweet that said clerks of court were responsible for providing stickers, and said it was an error.
Kauffman was not the only voter with the idea to create her own stickers. Baton Rouge voter Krysia Sherburne used the blue dog image from two years ago to create "I voted 2018" stickers that she shared Tuesday with her co-workers.
Many people said the sticker scarcity put a damper on their Election Day, especially those who hoped to post photos on social media with them.
Baton Rouge voter Leslie Rose said she always appreciates her sticker, and that it encourages and reminds others to vote.
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"I did not expect a blue dog sticker as I was aware it was a special one-time thing, but I did expect the generic one," Rose said. "The lack of a sticker does seem to make polling place photos a more common thing on this Election Day, which may be effective for social media, but so much for gentle in-person encouragement."
Lynn Mouton Carmouche felt the absence when she voted early on Oct. 30 in Prairieville, noting that the sticker symbolizes the "importance of having your voice heard in the ballot box."
"The act of wearing the simple sticker promotes the need for others to practice their right to vote," Carmouche said. "It is a shame the excuse of budget cuts was used, especially when I live in one of the fastest growing parishes in the state with a healthy tax base to support something so important."
But not everyone was feeling the sticker love. Some questioned why people deserved stickers for fulfilling a civic duty that others have died to protect. Lance Strain said Tuesday that he has never accepted a sticker when casting his vote.
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"This whole 'I voted' sticker thing is nonsense," Strain said. "What does it mean to wear a sticker that says you did something you should do anyway? Is this like participation trophies?"
But Tanja Davis, a voter in Harvey, said she hoped to present her 7-year-old daughter with a sticker when they went to the voting booth. She said her request for one went ignored by poll workers.
"I was disappointed because I was determined to vote in this election and was proud to share that moment with my daughter," Davis said.
Opinions on both sides popped up on social media.
"Louisiana: it is a travesty my polling place does not give out I voted stickers," LSU professor Nichole Bauer posted on Twitter. "Fix this!"
"We want voters to exercise their right to vote in each and every election," the Secretary of State's office replied to some of the social media messages. "We cannot provide stickers for every election due to budgetary constraints."
How did not receiving an "I voted" sticker affect your Election Day? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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