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.
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
Poachers killing elephants at increasing rates; independent autopsy on Brown; Gaza truce continues and more national and international news for Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.
A state judge Friday refused a temporary injunction sought against state education officials in an effort to block implementation of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana.
UL was the consensus pick in a coaches' preseason poll to win the league, and experience has a lot to do with that.
The price tag has nearly doubled for Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring of an outside consulting firm to recommend new ways to balance the state budget.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is under scrutiny for billing private chartered planes to her Senate office when she used the flights to attend campaign fundraisers.
Many people found not guilty by reason of insanity are being held in Louisiana jails, where they cannot get the treatment they need, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
In a just-released audio recording, City Prosecutor Gary Haynes claims Mike Harson had direct dealings with the alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme in the DA’s office.
C-P councilmen sponsor a resolution in support of the notion that one should subscribe to Tea Party ideas about civics before being allowed to seek public office.
Russel Honoré, the retired U.S. Army general known for his role in restoring order to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and most recently for his involvement in the Green Army movement to stop environmental abuses of Louisiana, has now weighed in on the police response to protestors in Ferguson, Mo.
More than three dozen restaurants, bars, convenience stores and supermarkets in Lafayette Parish are facing fines in connection with the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s 2014 “Summer Crackdown.”
The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.