Editorial: Election expense excessive

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler recently told the state Bond Commission that the state ranks No. 1 in the number elections held.

While it is good to give Louisianians the opportunity to vote, elections are costly and we should be more frugal in the way elections are scheduled to save money so other vital budgetary needs can be met.

“This state needs to understand we no longer have the money we had,” he said.

The commission put 29 items on ballots that will be considered by voters in different pockets of the state on Oct. 19.

Elections cost $1,250 per precinct. A big election results in the expenditure of millions of dollars.

A study concluded Louisiana held 70 elections between 2005 and 2010, putting the state at the top of the list in the number of elections conducted, according to Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

She said 32 of the 70 elections were to fill unexpired legislative terms.

Schedler’s said his beef is when local officials forget to put a property tax renewal on the election ballot and request an emergency, or special, election. As secretary of state, Schedler oversees elections and helps pay the bills to hold them.

Legislation filed by state Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, in 2011 helped curb legislative elections.

Fannin’s bill required the elections to be held on regularly scheduled election dates unless a large amount of time was left in the term.

Other attempts to rein in elections fell flat.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, said he backed legislation several years ago to determine what should

qualify for an emergency election. He said the bill failed.

“We will be looking at it in the future,” Riser said.

Schedler complained officials are never told “No” on an election request. The only exception he can remember, he said, is when St. Tammany Parish requested an election on the Saturday before Christmas.

“Those are eating us alive,” he said.

State government has been grappling with budget problems for several years.

Schedler said one likely reason for low voter turnout is voters are overwhelmed by the number of elections. He said they no longer can discern which ones are important.

“The public is up to their ears with it,” he said.

Schedler has a good point. There are many sensible ways the state can save money, and being more frugal in the way elections are scheduled is one of them.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.