Vote or No Vote: The $3.5-Million Question

Mar 19, 2015

The House Appropriations Committee has begun the process of combing through the governor’s budget proposal, and got some rather unpleasant news from Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

“I have no money for elections past the fall statewide elections,” Schedler said of the allocations in the 2016 budget plan. “And the most affected election would be the presidential preference primary in the spring. I have no funding for it.”

Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger was stunned, and said it can’t be because Gov. Jindal forgot about that particular election.

“We passed legislation last year, changing the date to try and make that primary more meaningful in the national scene,” Leger reminded his fellow committee members. “It would make it more meaningful for Louisiana voters and for presidential campaigns, so we can attract the candidates to be here.”

The primary is currently scheduled for Saturday, March 5, 2016. It is the only presidential primary that day. We would be the 17th state to vote our preferences for presidential candidates next year — election funding permitting.

Schedler said the situation is really very cut-and-dried.

“If there’s $3.5 million, we have a presidential preference primary. If there’s not $3.5-million, we don’t have a presidential preference primary,” the Secretary said.

Monroe Rep. Katrina Jackson said she’s concerned the failure to fund the election puts Louisiana in a terrible position.

“We’ll be a state that those who are seeking the office of President won’t even have to pay attention to. We basically become a non-factor with this budget the way it is," Jackson observed.

Leger says it feels like a slap in the face from the Jindal administration, which ends its authority in January 2016.

“Here’s a budget that’s been recommended to us that authorizes funding for elections through the end of December, and then beyond that, you’re on your own?” Leger said heatedly. “What that amounts to is another item to be placed on the list of ‘Legislators, you deal with this. We didn’t feel like doing that in our budget recommendation’.”

Jindal has yet to officially announce his candidacy for U.S. president, though he has said he is “thinking about it and praying about it.”