Minden Press-Herald

Sep 24th

La. Secretary of State speaks of number, cost of elections

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Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler has worked hard to add a new dimension to his job, while streamlining and updating the whole voting process.

"Louisiana ranks third in the country of eligible voters registered to vote," Schedler told a gathering of businesspersons and elected officials Friday. "In our state, 84 percent of eligible voters are registered to vote."

While a good percentage of persons are registered to vote, the problem, Schedler said, is "nobody shows up to vote." One reason? "We have way too many elections in Louisiana," he said.

From January 2005 to December 31, 2010, Louisiana held 70 elections, according to the Legislative auditor. It was the highest number of any state.

"It's our culture," Schedler said. "For some reason, we feel like we have to have elections every weekend."

Of the 70 elections over that 60-month period, Schedler said 32 were something simple, "like a legislator who didn't finish their term."

"They had to have a special election to finish their seat," he said. "If someone already elected to office runs and wins, then there has to be a special election to fill the seat they vacated. It's a merry-go-round that costs us millions of dollars."

In addition to a cost of $1,250 per precinct to hold an election, he said another down side is the restriction of voter participation.

"The more you have something, the less emphasis you put on it of importance," Schedler said.

But that doesn't mean Louisiana should halt efforts to register voters, and his office has worked to make it simple. Louisiana was the second state in the country to implement online registration.

"My website geauxvote.com includes an online voter registration component which can be used by citizens statewide, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Schedler said. "We have other states trying to emulate us."

However, it will be a long time – if ever – before online voting is secure enough to implement.

"If it happens, our military is the first group it would happen to," he said. "They are the only ones that we have a secure way to identify."

A proponent of the military, Scheduler has also implemented a way of honoring service men and women when voting.

"The Honor Vets. Vote. Program, encourages voters to visit www.sos.la.gov/honorvets for each election and honor a veteran with their vote," he said. "Voters complete a short form, print a commemorative certificate and are mailed a lapel pin and bumper sticker."

Schedler, a Mandeville resident was first appointed Secretary of State in 2010 after serving as first assistant for three years. He was then elected by the people to serve a four-year term as secretary of state in 2011.

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