Election Lows: Turnout, Spending, and Predictability

Oct 16, 2017

Less than 14-percent of Louisiana’s three million registered voters cast ballots in Saturday’s statewide election, but they sent the Treasurer’s race to a runoff next month between Democrat Derrick Edwards and Republican John Schroder.


“We’re going to be in a runoff with a Democrat out of New Orleans, and it’s far from just a given,” Schroder said, when announcing he'd bested fellow Republicans Neil Riser and Angele Davis to garner a runoff spot. “Somehow we have to get people to come out and vote again, later on in November.”

Schroder spent the most money in the race – over $600,000.

“We had a few tense moments, especially how much it cost to run one of these goofy campaigns,” Schroder told his supporters Saturday night.

Edwards, who did not get the support of the Democratic Party in his bid, spent less than $6,000.

So how did Edwards advance, with such disparity in campaign spending? University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross says there is a reservoir of support for Democratic candidates that is unshakable.

“In this case, Derrick Edwards got about 30% of the vote statewide, which is about what you’d expect just based on the number of people who will not vote for a Republican under any circumstances,” Cross explained.

But without a full-court press from the Democratic Party and/or a major infusion of campaign cash for ads between now and November 18th, Cross says it's unlikely Edwards can boost his support percentage past the 31-percent he earned in the primary. That's taking into account the fact that Edwards, from New Orleans, stands to benefit some from interest in and turnout for the runoff in the New Orleans' mayor's race.

Another interesting statistic developed Saturday: there were more total votes on each of the constitutional amendments than in the state Treasurer race, which led the ballot. Traditionally, the further down ballot, the smaller the number of votes cast. Cross suggests that may be due to the office that led the ballot, and the way the candidates for Treasurer framed their messaging.

“People aren’t really that clear on what the Treasurer does. The candidates didn’t help very much by kind of covering up what they actually do, in an effort to woo voters.”

And while state lawmakers have complained vociferously about constitutional and statutory dedications “tying their hands” in times of fiscal shortages, all three amendments passed, locking more money away from the legislature’s spending powers.

“What we see with all three of these amendments is that really the voters don’t trust government to do the right thing with their money,” Cross says. “For a long time now, people have been running against government, talking about how it’s bad; it’s wasting your money. And people have got the message.”

That plays well for Schroder, who built his legislative reputation – as well as his Treasurer's campaign – around the idea that the state has ample revenue – it's simply misspent.