In the election game, this shapeless mass is referred to as simply "The Others." But the tag can be misgiving, especially due to the sector's growth in recent years. In Lafayette Parish, where Republican registration has made record gains, there's been a healthy increase in independents. During the most recent statewide elections last year, the number of registered independents skyrocketed to 32,000, with 6,600 casting votes.
That's a huge jump from less than a decade ago. According to post-election statistics from the Secretary of State's Office, roughly 453 independent voters were registered in Lafayette Parish in 1998, and only 17 voted.
While independents in Louisiana aren't yet closing the gap with the 1.5 million registered Democrats, they have only 83,500 fewer members than the Republican Party. Regardless of their standing, independents are rarely tapped for judicial appointments in the state or asked for input by the administration. Additionally, political scientists focus more on voting behaviors in their research than party identification. It's just one of the many factors that makes it difficult to judge the impact of independents in Louisiana, says Ernie Roberson, a Caddo Parish native who became Louisiana's first nationally certified registrar of voters in 1999.
When the National Voter Registration Act was adopted 14 years ago, making it easier for people to become voters through offices of motor vehicles, Web sites, libraries, and other means, many hurriedly signed up and left their party affiliation blank, says Roberson, thus making them an "other" on the rolls. "The biggest surprise we saw in those early years was how many people just didn't pick a mainline party at all," says Roberson, who has served on two federal election task forces. "That's what makes them difficult for candidates to approach. That's why neither of the parties can make headway in getting converts. It's so hard to measure because there's so much we don't know about them."
Furthermore, there are countless studies about registered Democrats and Republicans who consider themselves independents but have never switched over. That comes as heartening news to Michael S. Wolf, secretary of the Louisiana Libertarian Party. Arguably the most active independent party in the state, Libertarians constantly run candidates for statewide office and Congress ' 24 contenders since 2000 ' but they're placing a larger focus on state legislative seats this year. The move could prove to be a boon for the group's grassroots structure.
With more than 2,500 voters on the rolls, Wolf says the Libertarians ' along with the Green and Reform parties, which are also recognized by the state ' offer independent voters a place to call home. It's the surest way independents can unite their voice for a difference to the status quo, although quite a bit of romanticism can be placed in standing firm and being autonomous. "Parties in Louisiana have historically been futile, but that's changing," Wolf says. "Voting has been about relationships and personalities. Everybody had to join a team, but there are alternatives."
Candidates running as independent were allowed to place their party's name near their own on ballots for the first time last year, as long as their party met certain criteria ' at least 1,000 registered voters and a presidential candidate that pulled down 5 percent in a recent statewide election. Many groups, such as the "Independent Party," didn't make the cut when the law took effect in 2005 due to its 30,000 members. Neither did the Black Panther Party or Aerosmith Party, which didn't get many members to walk its way.
For generations, the state's unique open-primary system has encouraged more independent candidates to run. But starting next year, Louisiana will revert to the closed-primary system for congressional races. Whether the two parties will allow independents to vote in their primary is unknown ' they could get shut out. Additionally, Republicans look likely to capture the state House of Representatives, narrowing perspectives ever further, and voter rolls are still in disarray following Katrina and Rita.
Wolf isn't convinced the new primary system will set back non-affiliated voters, but he's holding off judgment until the 2008 election cycle wraps up. Dr. Robert Hogan, a professor of American politics at Louisiana State University, says the independent movement in Louisiana over the past decade can't be ignored, but the next few years may really define the political undercurrent of this state. "The congressional races are changing, the Legislature is in play, and Katrina is still upsetting the applecart," notes Hogan.
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.