I-Team: Paying for the Polls - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Paying for the Polls


Louisiana ranks first in the country for the number of elections held each year and it's not even a close race. When all the votes are cast and counted, taxpayers are stuck with a hefty bill. The 9News I-Team examined state figures to track your money.

Louisiana politics is sometimes referred to as a "spectator sport." It's not uncommon for some politico to say on Election Day, "Vote early and vote often."  The truth is Louisiana has, by far, more elections than any other state in the country. The Bayou State has held 70 elections in just the past five years.

"The closest to us, I believe, is Georgia at 38, Florida at 35 then North Carolina is at nine," said Secretary of State Tom Schedler. "I've always said a progressive state like North Carolina can have nine elections, while we had 70. Something's wrong and we have to do something about it."

Schedler says the cost of holding so many elections is what concerns him most. He estimates the state spends $1,200 per precinct for each election. That means a single statewide vote can cost more than $5 million. The recent CATS tax proposition cost East Baton Rouge Parish taxpayers $265,000. Less than one-third of eligible voters (31 percent) went to the polls in that election. In West Baton Rouge, a parish-wide Council on Aging and museum tax passed at the cost of $34,000. In Ascension Parish, Donaldsonville held an election on roads and fire protection that cost tax payers $13,200 with just 10 percent voter turnout. And, in Livingston Parish, a single school district renewal was passed at a cost of $94,800 and only about six percent of voters cast ballots.

"Voter apathy is at an all time high. I think it emulates from just people's frustration with government at all levels, starting with the federal government," Schedler explained.

Another issue with so many elections is trying to find qualified commissioners. Those are the people who check you in at the polls and make sure you're eligible to vote. For example, in Iberville Parish, Clerk of Court J.G. "Bubbie" Dupont's pool of commissioners is dwindling, in large part because of so many elections.

"It looks like every year, Lord, I've been doing elections here for a bunch of years, looks like every year, it's harder and harder to get commissioners," Dupont said. "All our commissioners are passing away or retiring and the younger people just aren't interested in working Election Day."

"We even have situations that have occurred recently when we have early voting overlapping with another election at the same time, which is totally ludicrous," Schedler added.

One reason there's so many elections held in Louisiana is because so many different entities have the power to call for an election.

"The secretary of state is the chief elections officer, but the secretary of state has absolutely no say so on when an election is called in Louisiana and I think we ought to change that," Schedler said.

And that, no doubt, would have to be put to a vote.

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