OUR OPINION: Voter turnout a good sign

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

As the line of people looking to cast early ballots filed out the door of the his office in the Parish Courthouse East Monday morning, parish Registrar of Voters Robert Poche knew it was a sign of things to come.

Hundreds of voters in Ascension Parish chose to file their ballots early this week, with three more days available including today to do so prior to the Nov. 4 general election.

We believe seeing such a large turnout is a positive forebearer for things to come in terms of overall voter turnout for this election cycle.

“It’s a very good sign when people turn out like this,” Poche said Monday between answering constantly ringing phones and helping people file into line for their chance to step before one of the three voting machines located in a room just off the main office.

Poche and his employees saw a steady line of voters Monday and expected to see that number grow as the week-long voting period continued.

With the hotly contested race for U.S. President leading a pack of mostly national races on the ballot, one would believe that turnout would naturally be strong. The nation is seemingly polarized on either side for Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain or Democrat U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, and such a divide usually means that people will turn out in droves to ensure their candidate wins.

Ditto that for the U.S. Senate race featuring incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican challenger John Kennedy, currently the state treasurer of Louisiana. The 6th Congressional District race in the U.S. House of Representatives is also on the line, featuring incumbent Democrat Don Cazayoux facing Republican Bill Cassidy and independent Michael Jackson.

Unlike traditional efforts to place tax issues on small ballots, parish government is hoping that the large numbers coming to vote will also give a better result for the proposed 3-mill property tax issue to fund the purchase and upgrading of the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center. An issue that has hung over parish government’s collective head since 2002, Parish President Tommy Martinez and the Parish Council chose to bring this issue before the voters to decide the facility’s fate. We agree with the move, but wonder what will happen if the issue does not pass.

With the runoff for 23rd Judicial District Attorney decided after Louis Lambert dropped out and gave Ricky Babin the win, only two local runoffs will be on the ballot – 2nd Justice Court Constable and 3rd Justice Court Justice of the Peace. On any other ballot, turnout may not be high for two localized races, but this ballot brings the opportunity for higher turnouts in these concentrated areas of the parish.

Voters will also decide on seven proposed state constitutional amendments during this election. We recommend that voters inform themselves on these amendments before heading to the polls so they can make an informed decision on issues that affect all Louisiana residents.

Traditionally, high early voting numbers mean that high numbers will also vote on Election Day. So, even though Secretary of State Jay Dardenne advised voters to vote early to avoid lines Nov. 4, voters will see lines.

Poche said he is expecting somewhere between 70 and 75 percent voter turnout for this election in Ascension, a figure 10 percent higher than a statewide prediction made by Dardenne.

By the looks of things so far, both could hit their marks.