Jared Andrews at Denham Springs - Walker branch (Runoff)

Registrar of Voters Jared Andrews discusses the early voting process at the parish's new, satellite location.

Every vote counts.

It’s a phrase uttered during almost all election cycles and, for some elections, rings true all too often.

Saturday, Nov. 16 was no exception – two elections that Livingston Parish residents voted for were decided by a 1% margin. For the top tier race, Governor, John Bel Edwards edged “Eddie” Rispone by just 40,000 votes.

To put that in perspective – 1.5 million people voted, so the margin was slim when considered with the total. Another way to put it – 40,000 people is roughly 25% of the population of Livingston Parish, or half of it’s registered voters.

That’s one parish, out of 64, wherein half of the voters accounted for the margin of victory.

The win in Parish Council District 6, where Gerald McMorris toppled Derek Babcock? 72 votes was the deciding factor for McMorris, with over 2,000 voting.

The turnout in both races? Roughly 50%.

Before we go further, it’s important to remember that fair is fair and these two gentlemen won the races as they were presented. Congratulations and respect is owed because they worked to earn those votes.

It’s also paramount to remind the populous that voter turnout is part of the game.

So that leaves the situation of voter turnout facing three questions – Should voting be more accessible? Should people be required to vote? Or should the situation be accepted, as it is?

As technology, and protection, improve the first question will be answered simply with time. Eventually, registered voters will be hit with a ‘notification’ from their GeauxVote app (in Louisiana) that says ‘time to early vote – you have seven days!’

From there, a final notification on election day – sent out to 81% of Americans, which is a higher number than registered voters, and definitely a higher percentage than average voter turnout.

Don’t believe it? National security is already testing governmental firewalls on digital data. Next they’ll try unofficial polls, delivery of legislative transcripts, etc., via a ‘federal knowledge app’ of some sort. Congressman Garret Graves is already focused on improving constituent communication via websites and apps, as right now in order for the congressional office to help a constituent they require an affidavit, in writing.

How passé.

What comes after that? Well, the ability to securely vote. Will it happen tomorrow? Doubtful, as there is an entire section of population who would be removed due to a lack of a smart phone. They could still vote at designated polling locations, but the cries of ‘discrimination’ would be too loud to start.

Required voting, however, takes it a bit far. This is, supposedly, the land of the free – and that freedom includes a choice on whether or not individuals choose to cast their opinion. As mentioned, it’s all part of the game – voter turnout is a piece of the puzzle.

And it’s a paying piece – campaigns hire marketing firms, consultants, anyone they can to help get their name out there… but also to draw folks to the polls. There’s a huge contingent of cash spent on ‘polls’ and ‘defaming the other candidate’ to emotionally trigger voters to the polls. If voting became a requirement? There’d be a lot of money shifted elsewhere.

So don’t’ expect the polling ‘status quo’ to change any time soon with regard to requirement. The easiest fix, since we will have to wait for personal, digital voting, is reducing the number of elections per year. The News has written before about one election, per year, every other year which would save money, per election, and more full ballots draw more voter turnout.

Any entity that is on an election ballot, specifically municipalities, must pay for their portion of the election which includes monitoring, tabulation, etc. More full ballots are, therefore, cheaper to run.

So if you’re looking for better voter turnout – push your elected officials at the state and federal level to enact policy for fewer elections. Also, hope that more encryption can be installed to assist with personal, digital voting methods.

J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.

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