Voting with Your Feet Also Determines Elections

Louisiana Voting

            Manchester      Attorney General Jeff Landry in Louisiana is a hard right culture warrior and Republican provocateur.  Yet, for the first time in a dozen years, he emerged as the winner with a majority of the vote in the so-called “jungle” primary, where candidates of all parties contend for a place in the general election.  He made it with a bit over 51%.  How did he do it?  Who really elected him?

In many ways, he was elected by the vast majority of people who voted with their feet.  Only 36% of registered voters actually went to the polls and voted.  Of those 36%, Landry managed to get half.  Basically, Landry will now be governing the state with the support of only 18% of Louisiana’s voters or less than one in five.  Voting with their feet, 64% of Louisiana’s voters, almost two-thirds, walked away from the election.  A lot of fingers can rightly be pointed in different directions to explain this almost historically low voter turnout in the state.  The Democratic Party laid down, not fielding candidates in many races and weak ones in others.  The campaign was this or that, but hardly visible.  Pick one out of the long list, but the bottom line is that nonvoters are not simply the unregistered, but they are also the inactive.

Polls blasting across the front pages of US papers are giving Americans a post-Halloween scare, showing the results from the reputable Siena/New York Times surveys that former President Trump is leading current President Biden in many of the battleground states, except Wisconsin.  Importantly, the poll was conducted among all registered voters.  There are many stories about how disaffected younger Black and Hispanic voters seem with Biden.  Because of this, Trump scored 20%, a modern high for a Republican among Black voters.

Should we tear our hair and wring our hands?  Maybe?  That’s actually always a good idea in the year before a presidential election, especially if it gets everyone in gear now.  Should we panic, look for another candidate, apply for a different passport, or what?

My advice is to remember Louisiana’s election.  The voters who determine the winner are the chronic voters, every bit as much as those who vote with their feet and walk away from the election.  In Louisiana, it was a race between two unappealing candidates.  In the US, we’re facing a race against unpopular candidates, where many people also wish they had a better choice.  Some will vote holding their noses, which has been typical for many progressives for years.  Others will keep walking away from the election.  Importantly, the poll also shows that both Biden and Trump are holding onto key parts of their base, even while not enlarging it.  In Biden’s case, older whites tend to be more committed voters than many of the Trumpsters.  The disaffected are often most inactive, which may be why Biden is not panicking.

Rather than jumping off a bridge, at the Voter Purge Project, we process more than a hundred-fifty million voters from almost all the states.  We see the inactive voter list, and how it is growing.  In 2020, we ran a program among inactive and purged voters to get them to vote and to reregister.  Then we worked with a more limited number of states and a list of about 1.5 million inactive voters.  In 2024, we – and many others – need to make inactive voters, holding their noses or not, who understand the real issues and what’s at stake here, get off the couch this time and walk towards the voting booth, rather than walking away.