As the scorching humid heat of the summer wanes and the scorching less-humid heat of fall dawns, Louisiana enters into its final stages of election season — the peak of which will culminate in the election of the governor. But aside from state-wide elections such as this, there are other local and municipal elections taking place that do not receive the attention (whether it be media, voter participation or otherwise) that they deserve.
On the website of the Secretary of State of Louisiana (SoS), the department whose job it is to inform on upcoming elections, there is a page solely dedicated to showing you what state-wide and local offices have candidates running for election. From your representative in the state legislature to your local tax assessor, from the sheriff to even the coroner, if there is a public office in your city or parish, they are probably up for election this year.
These races aren’t the most high-profile, but small offices like this have the most impact on your day-to-day life. They are the places in government where ideology meets pragmatism and produces policy that “works good enough” and ideally gets change done in our community. It’s where our national partisan differences somewhat breakdown to focus more intently on improving our shared community.
Even so, you should still be sure to carefully weigh each candidate’s views before ticking that box come Oct. 12. After all, who your sheriff is will determine how law is enforced, who composes your school board determines what school you and your neighbor's children will go to, and who is in your city council determines how city resources and services are utilized.
City council members especially should have pressure put on them on what they have done to make the municipality they work for better than when they got there.
Indeed, they are the ones who make decisions on how to finance many of the things that we care about — things like water quality, road maintenance, drainage efficiency and traffic control. City councils are meant to upgrade these services to run more efficiently and respond to issues that arise from their malfunction. Neither the governor nor president can do much about local issues like these, but it is your council person’s duty to try and fix them.
If by this point you feel somewhat obliged or urged to vote, then welcome aboard the “Democracy Train” where our next stop is October. Before you can change the world (or at least the Lafayette region) one vote at a time, you may need some resources to learn who is running where and what. There are many resources available to help you find out what municipal districts you are in and who is running.
As mentioned before, the SoS is tasked with informing the public about state-wide and local elections. Their website will always have the most up-to-date information, and, as a bonus, three weeks before election day the SoS will publish sample ballots of what you will see in the ballot box come election day so you will walk in as a mindful and prepared voter.
The SoS will only give you information on who is running and their party affiliation; they do not provide information on the platforms those candidates are running on. For that, I suggest looking at those candidates’ campaign websites or other websites that are dedicated to listing out politicians’ views. Votesmart.com and ballotpedia.org are two great resources for finding information on small elections.
The point I am hoping to drive across is this: In Louisiana, we are given lots and lots of opportunities for choice (we elect the parish coroner for goodness’ sake). Many of the people who serve in the offices that shape how we live our lives are not appointed or born into their position, they are elected; they are accountable to the charters and constitutions that define their position and to we the people that put them there. Let us make sure we all participate fully in these elections come October so those who lead us are representative of our ideals and interests, the ones that make our home a safer, cleaner and happier place to live.