WAGUESPACK: Put Your Vote Where Your Mouth Is

Which half of the electorate will you be this year?

Based upon projections and modeling using early voting numbers, Secretary of State Tom Schedler estimates that roughly 50 percent of Louisiana’s registered voters will actually show up and vote in this year’s election. That means the other half of Louisiana voters will take a pass on this election. As a statistical comparison, 67.26 percent of registered voters turned out to the polls in Louisiana for the 2012 presidential election.

It is not uncommon for voter participation numbers to be lower in a non-presidential election year, but in my opinion, it remains a disappointing statistic. This is especially true considering the impactful items on the ballot this year.

Much has been written about the U.S. Senate race, and I can speak on behalf of every Louisiana resident to say that our mailboxes, TVs and home phones are ready for this race to end. The same can probably be said for those that live in the 5th and 6th Congressional Districts.

Despite the campaign fatigue felt by many, these races are very important to our prosperity. The Louisiana Senate race is like several other high-profile Senate races around the country asking a similar question:  Is supposed clout with an unpopular president more or less important than inserting a new voice that is more able to speak out forcefully against his unpopular policies? The Congressional races have been much simpler to understand since virtually every candidate has been clear they will push back on the president’s policies on behalf of Louisiana.

As I travel this state and visit with our business members, the chorus is deafening from the amount of concern they have with Washington, D.C. The ever-increasing role of government in every aspect of their lives through runaway regulations, mandates, restrictions, taxes and requirements is one of the top issues I hear from employers.

Our members want to grow their businesses, expand their operations and hire more Louisiana people; but they are scared to death that when they do that Washington will send another unforeseen cost or mandate their way that will throw their game plan out of balance. The result is an economy that does not trust what it feels and does not act with confidence. This economic trepidation is a result of the actionist policies coming from Washington, D.C. these days and driven by the current administration.

The president’s policies and regulations are holding our economy back and making it harder for Louisiana to grow out of the national recession. For this reason alone, turnout should be a no-brainer for any Louisiana voter who wants to send Washington a message that this expansionist approach to over-regulation is not acceptable.

But if this type of reasoning doesn’t motivate you to vote, the reality is that there are numerous other compelling reasons around the state to turn out to vote.

In Jefferson Parish, the national teacher unions are dumping a boatload of dollars on local school board races in the hopes of rolling back reforms pushed by the current reform-minded school board. Jefferson has seen its scores rise and budgets stabilize over the last several years, thanks to a school board that is putting results and the needs of children first. Those voters living in that area should be very motivated to vote and protect those reformers from this union attack.

In Baton Rouge, rather than protect a reform minded-school board, the 2014 elections are a great opportunity to put one in place. That school system is soon to undertake a national search for a new superintendent and has been losing students and parents to neighboring parishes for years. This election could be one of the last, best opportunities to put this system on the right track.

Lafayette is in a similar situation, where they are trying to elect reform-minded school board members to support a hard-charging superintendent trying to shake up a chronically low-performing educational system. Turnout should be a no-brainer for residents in Baton Rouge and Lafayette also.

If local school board elections do not motivate you, perhaps one of the 14 proposed Constitutional Amendments will spur you into action. If not, maybe one of the local tax proposals or local judge elections may inspire you to act. No matter your political view, there is likely at least one item on the ballot that should peak your interest.

We all have different concerns and thoughts about how our country should run. Trust me, I am firm in my own beliefs on these points. As a country, we spend all year long discussing these differences, reading about them in the paper and listening to talking heads debate them on TV. Debating our differences takes up much more time on a daily basis than discussions about how to find common ground on important issues.

Despite this all-consuming American pastime of debating politics, for some reason, too many of us choose to skip the opportunity to send a message on Election Day. Too many of us choose to simply not show up.

Don’t let it be you this year. Find the time to show up. Don’t be in the half of our electorate that is predicted to skip the election. Make your voice heard on this day, not just the other 364 days of the year.

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