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Along with tossing out spoiled food and mucking out saturated Sheetrock, another hallmark of a major Louisiana storm is postponing elections.

Gov. John Bel Edwards approved Thursday Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s request to push back for a month the Oct. 9 primary until Nov. 13 and the Nov. 13 runoff to Dec. 11.

Ardoin said that with much of the state without power, damage to some voting locations and widespread displacement of voters and elections commissioners — the storm affected 42% of the state’s 3 million registered voters — his office needed additional time to put on a proper election.

“It makes a huge task much more doable,” said Slidell Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who as chair of the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee oversees election-related issues.

This isn’t Louisiana’s first foray into rearranging storm-addled elections.

Gov. Bobby Jindal postponed for a month the 2008 primaries and runoffs after Hurricane Gustav cast 1.5 million residents into the dark and caused 2 million to evacuate.

Many then, and now, worry about the impact of December balloting on election outcomes.

And with some reason.

Only 20% of electorate voted in the December 2008 general elections, giving the edge to candidates who could mobilize their minority of supporters.

In the 2012, 2018 and 2020 elections, anemic turnouts of 15.7%, 17.7% and 16% decided congressional races as well as municipal contests and statewide constitutional questions. The anomaly was on Dec. 6, 2014, when 43% turnout helped Republican Bill Cassidy defeat Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu.

This year’s December general election likely will include some runoffs to decide who will be mayor, sheriff, and assessor in New Orleans — 21 candidates are challenging incumbents — plus all seven seats on the New Orleans City Council are contested by multiple candidates.

At the same time, it gives candidates in New Orleans and elsewhere another month to campaign. That’s not lost on the promoters of a 10-year property tax renewal at a 10.6 millage rate to fund Baton Rouge’s bus system, which is wildly unpopular for some but very necessary for others in the spread-out city-parish of about 437,000 people. “We will make the necessary adjustments and continue educating the public on how CATS connects this community,” spokeswoman Amie McNaylor wrote in a text.

The blueprint for how to handle these kinds of elections was written in 2006 in federal courtrooms, the State Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion and the Secretary of State’s office long before Ardoin and Hewitt were office. Republican Jay Dardenne, now commissioner of administration, became secretary of state in September 2006 when he and two minor GOP candidates polled 54% of the vote in the Democratic stronghold of New Orleans after an estimated 250,000 people were displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco rescheduled the Feb. 4, 2006, primaries and March 4 runoffs for New Orleans municipal elections until April 22 and May 20, 2006.

With about $750,000 spent on advertising in cities outside Louisiana to reach potential voters, the state expanded absentee balloting and early voting, allowed voting at 10 satellite locations outside the city, and accepted the ballots of those who drove in on election day.

About 108,000 voters participated in the 2006 mayoral primary, or a 36% turnout, which was down 10% from the 2002 municipal elections. In the runoff that year, about 114,000 ballots were cast, with a 37% turnout, 25,000 of those absentee or at satellite polling places before the election. Ray Nagin beat Mitch Landrieu by about 5,000 votes.

Ironically, many of the storm-related features are the very same that Republican legislators tried to circumscribe in the Louisiana Legislature earlier this year, only to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Edwards. Many similar ideas were banned in the voting procedures bill signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, on Tuesday.

Sen. Hewitt has a lot of respect for the new law in Texas, which supporters say protects against fraud and opponents say limits the participation of minority voters who are less likely to back GOP causes and candidates.

“There’s not anything I’m aware of in the Texas legislation that I don’t think would be good policy in Louisiana,” Hewitt said, raising the possibility that Louisiana legislators will revisit voting laws in next year’s session.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.