Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Deliberating on democracy

Yesterday The Advocate ran a story about Louisiana's appearance in the Center for Voting and Democracy's new report, Dubious Democracy 2005. The portion of the report focusing on Louisiana begins, "Louisiana’s congressional elections are among the least democratic in the nation." The report notes, "Louisiana ranks 46th out of all 50 states on the democracy index this year, making it one of FairVote’s “Dirty Dozen” of 2005." The Center credits Louisiana's 46th place ranking to its "sky-high incumbency rate" and its "anemic voter turnout." For context, consider these facts about the U.S. as a whole in 2004: --Nationally, just 5 incumbents lost to challengers --The average victory margin was 70% to 30% --Nearly 25% of all races were uncontested (incumbent had no challenger) --1 out of every 11 voters skipped the House vote on their ballots Louisiana made the national survey's "state lowlights" list with the following fact: "Incumbents have gone 36 for 36 since 1992. 1992 was the only election in elections between 1982 - 2004 when an incumbent was defeated." On the subject of voter turnout, here's a little-known fact that hasn't earned much attention in Louisiana: The state had the nation's "lowest voter turnout in the nation in U.S. House races, with only 39 percent of the voting-eligible population in Louisiana voting in the 2004 U.S. House elections." [emphasis added]. This means, the report concludes, "barely one in four eligible Louisiana voters voted for anyone representing them in the U.S. House."