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Louisiana State Capitol (American Press Archives)

Louisiana State Capitol (American Press Archives)

Tax and bond election bill should be scuttled

Last Modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:03 PM

Like the Spaghetti Western, proposed legislation in this and every session of the Louisiana Legislature can fall into three categories: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

A bid to require that all tax and bond elections in Louisiana attract at least a 20 percent voter turnout for issues to be approved lands in the latter two categories.

Senate Bills 200 and 201, by state Sen. R.L. ‘‘Bret’’ Allain, R-Franklin, seeks a constitutional amendment for voters to consider in November that would put in place the 20 percent voter turnout minimum requirement.

Property tax and bond elections have historically resulted in low voter turnout in Louisiana, many times in single-digit percentages.

But Allain’s proposed cure is half-baked.

Voting is not only a right in this country, it’s a privilege. It’s a fundamental building block of this nation’s government.

Allain’s bills encourage eligible voters to remain on the sidelines and sit out election days. Opponents of a particular issue could stay at home rather than cast their vote against a proposition. The result could be further voter apathy.

Imagine a scenario where a tax or bond issue received resounding support, say 90 percent of those who cast their ballots, but because the turnout only reached 19.9 percent of the registered voters in the taxing or bonding district, the proposition failed.

The bills also mean voters are no longer equal. Proponents of a measure have to go to their precinct, or to the courthouse if they are voting early, to cast their ballot. Opponents can defeat a proposition by staying home on the sofa.

That’s not only wrong, that’s dangerous.

Voting remains one of this nation’s great guarantees that men and women have fought and died for, a right that women and blacks in this country were far too long denied.

There remains something magical about entering the voting booth and stepping behind the curtain with no oversight other than one’s conscience, a man or woman casting a ballot for or against the issue at hand.

Any legislation that discourages and dissuades that right and empowers people to affect government by non-participation is not only foolish, it’s the first step down a slippery slope from which there may be no recovery.

The Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee, of which state Sen. John Smith, R-Leesville, is a member, should scuttle Allain’s bills as soon as possible.

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