Election 2015 - Everything you need to know
BATON ROUGE - Voters will choose or begin to choose a new governor Saturday, while also voting on six other statewide offices and four constitutional amendments.
Early voting turnout has been low according to the Secretary of State's Office, with 222,162 of the state's eligible voters going to the polls early. That's 7.6 percent of voters statewide. Secretary of State Tom Schedler predicted voter turnout for Saturday's election would run between 45 and 50 percent.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. People who are in line to vote at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote. You can view a sample ballot for your area, find your voting precinct and check on any assistance you can get to help you vote by clicking here.
The Oct. 24 statewide election is an open primary for Louisiana's top office. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote the top two will go into a runoff during the November 21 general election.
The four major candidates jockeying for a top finish include a U. S. senator, public service commissioner, lieutenant governor and state representative. Through six debates televised statewide the candidates have spoken on issues including Louisiana's budget crisis, gun rights, higher education and expanding health insurance for the state's poorest citizens.
The most-visited topic, however, is one of those candidate's absence from the debates. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has only appeared in two of the six televised debates, citing scheduling conflicts with his work in Washington D. C. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the other major Republicans in the race, hammered his absence as well as Vitter's D.C. prostitution scandal as they attempt to pass him for one of the expected runoff positions.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, the lone Democrat, seems poised to secure the other runoff position in recent polls.
Nearly all the rest of the state's top positions are also up for a vote this weekend. Candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state treasurer are on the ballot, as are the commissioner of insurance and commissioner of agriculture and forestry.
The lieutenant governor's race is a four-way primary between state Senator Elbert "Lee" Guillory, East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, former Plaquemines Parish President Bill Nungesser, and Jefferson Parish President John Young. The seat is being vacated by Jay Dardenne due to term limits.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler faces LSU law professor Chris Tyson, a Democrat and former aide to then-Senator Mary Landrieu, in his bid for re-election. Treasurer John Kennedy is also running for re-election, and faces Baton Rouge attorney Jennifer Treadway, a fellow Republican.
Attorney General Buddy Caldwell faces four opponents in his bid for re-election, two Republican and two Democrat. They include former U. S. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA), Assistant District Attorney Marty Maley from the 18th Judicial District, Garyville attorney Geraldine Baloney and former assistant AG Ike Jackson of Plaquemine.
The four constitutional amendments on the Oct. 24 ballot, unsurprisingly, deal largely with the state's budget and mineral revenues. The Public Affairs Research Council published their guide to the amendments online, including a worksheet which voters can fill out and take into the booth with them.
The first proposed amendment would split the state's rainy day fund into two different pots of money, the Budget Stabilization Fund and the new Transportation Stabilization Fund. Right now the state saves up to $850 million in the Budget Stabilization Fund for a "rainy day," and must refill the fund whenever it's tapped to bail out the state budget. The proposed amendment would cap that fund at $500 million, and create a new Transportation Stabilization Fund which would store another $500 million. This new fund could also be tapped to help the budget, and can be used to supplement transportation and infrastructure projects.
The second proposed amendment also deals with transportation, allowing the state treasurer to invest public funds into the state's new Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which was created during the last legislative session. The bank would give loans to local governments who want low-cost financing for transportation projects, but needs money to get started. This amendment would create another way to get those funds, by directly depositing them from the state's coffers.
The third proposed amendment would clarify what kinds of items lawmakers can consider during a fiscal session of the legislature instead of a general session. It would specifically replace restrictive language in the Louisiana Constitution describing what can be allowed with generalizations. Proponents say those restrictions have led to confusion and litigation in the past and should be relaxed, while critics are concerned such loosening will allow the fiscal sessions to become more like a general legislative session.
The fourth proposed amendment would allow local governments to collect property taxes from public land in Louisiana owned by other states. One example listed by the Public Affairs Research Council is if a city utility in a different state stores natural gas in Louisiana, which happened in a recent court case involving Memphis Light, Gas and Water and West Carroll Parish. The Tennessee utility successfully argued in court they were exempt from being taxed by the parish because it was a "public property used for public purposes," which the Judicial District Court of Louisiana agreed with in 2013 and was later upheld by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.