Democrats Will Contest Three Louisiana U.S. House Races; Libertarians Will Contest Five U.S. House Races

Filing has closed for Louisiana congressional elections. Republicans are running in all six districts. Democrats are only running in the First, Second, and Third Districts. Libertarians are running in all districts except the First District. Independent candidates are running in the First, Fifth, and Sixth Districts. Thanks to Randall Hayes for this information.

There are no congressional primaries in Louisiana. All candidates run in November. Generally the incumbent, or some candidate, gets at least 50% and is elected. But if no one gets 50%, there is a runoff in December. This system was used in Louisiana 1998 through 2006. In 2006, the legislature decided it didn’t like that system, and changed it effective 2008 to a semi-closed primary and an orthodox general election. But then, after a few years, the legislature decided it didn’t like that either, and went back to the old system effective this year.

8 comments

  1. Richard, is it safe to say the Louisiana “jungle primary” was the intellectual forerunner to the Top Two systems on the west coast, or did those develop independently of LA?

  2. #2, that’s a tough question. The Washington State Grange originated top-two in Washington state. I don’t know if the Grange got the idea from Louisiana or not.

  3. Jim Riley · · Reply

    Louisiana doesn’t really conduct primaries for other offices either. Historically, they required a majority for party nomination, and the two elections were referred to as the 1st and 2nd primary, and were in the fall of odd years with the general election early in even years. Ordinarily, everything was settled in the Democratic primary[-ies]. In 1971-2, Edwin Edwards had two tough primaries, winning the second with 50.2% of the vote. In the February 1972 general election, he defeated Republican David Treen. 10,000 votes had been cast in the Republican primary, but Treen received 480,000 votes in the general election (more votes were cast in the 2nd Democratic primary than in the general election).

    The Open Primary was really intended to get rid of the general election by eliminating any Republicans in the first round, but it retained the property that a candidate may be elected in the first round if they receive a majority.

    In gubernatorial election years, the primary is in October and the general election in mid-November (both on Saturdays). When the Open Primary was adapted to congressional elections, the primary was in early October or late September, with the runoff on the federal election day. Since Louisiana has relatively few even-year elections, this worked out OK as a schedule, even though they were forced to hold Tuesday elections.

    Foster v Love, which had originated as Love v Edwards, challenged the schedule. I suspect it was really an attack on the Open Primary, but the only thing that a court would bite on was the date of the runoff. Since Louisiana does not have write-in votes in any elections, and cancels uncontested elections, often times there weren’t even polling places on the 1st Tuesday after the 1st Monday in November, and the governor was literally certifying representatives as being elected in October.

    After the Supreme Court’s ruling in Foster v Love, the Louisiana legislature deadlocked on what to do. Governor Foster and the House wanted to simply move the congressional primary to federal election day, while the senate wanted to switch back to the old partisan election system. It was the federal district court that imposed the November-December calendar. Love v Foster challenged that decision, arguing that the schedule was not severable from the open primary system. The 5th Circuit upheld the schedule, and the Supreme Court did not take the appeal.

    Louisiana being Louisiana, kept the even-year October primary for other offices, so they had a October primary, a combined November general/congressional primary, and a possible December congressional runoff.

    After a few years of grumbling about the schedule, the legislature tried to get around the Foster v Love decision. They put the October primary back in place, but if only 1 or 2 candidates filed, no primary would be held. So if there were only 1 or 2 candidates, the November election would elect the member of Congress. But if there were 3 or more candidates, there was only a possibility of a November runoff. It would be interesting to know what would have happened if they had made a race with 3 or more candidates a Top 2 primary.

    A federal district court blocked implementation of the modified October-November congressional schedule in Daughter of Love v Blanco. The legislature then went back to the old partisan nomination system for congressional elections. It appears to be a way to get back to October elections.

    But it had other complications. For example, it required use of a lockout switch to prevent voters from voting in the wrong congressional primary, while allowing to vote in other races. Physical limitations of the lockout switch almost resulted in new laws not permitting the Libertarians to nominate anyone. Louisiana also uses conditional ballots for overseas voters for the runoff. Depending on which party and how many candidates were running, a voter might get a 1st Primary ballot, a 2nd Primary ballot, and a general election ballot.

    If there was one Democrat running, the whole election would be cancelled.
    If there were two Democrats running, Democrat voters would get a 1st Primary ballot.
    If there were three or more Democrats running, Democrat voters would get a 1st Primary ballot, and a conditional 2nd primary ballot, where they could rank all the candidates.
    If there were two Democrats and 1 Republican, Democrats would get a 1st Primary ballot, and a conditional general election ballot where they could rank all 3 potential candidates.

    Under the Open Primary, all military voters can simply be given a conditional ballot with all candidates on it for the runoff.

    And voters did not like being excluded from voting, especially since they were permitted to vote in all other elections for other offices.

    One Senator related a story about his wife voting in a partisan primary. We’ll call the senator Jean Deaux. Mrs. Deaux arrived at the polling place and was politely shown to a voting machine, where the names were unfamiliar. As it turns out, while Senator Deaux is a Republican, his wife is Democrat. The election judge explained it was a Republican ballot. Mrs. Deaux, while a lady, in no uncertain terms told him that if she was a Republican, where he might go. The election judge checked the election roll, apologized profusely, and ushered her to a Democratic voting machine. Asked about the original machine, she was told that they would take the next Republican to that machine and let him finish voting.

    In 2010, the legislature switched back to the Open Primary. Louisiana has very strict term limits, and a majority of the House were freshmen, and it appeared there was no institutional history for the change. They had all been elected in the Open Primary. They accepted the December runoff as simply a legal requirement. At most, there was a small concern that a December-elected representative would somehow lose seniority.

    The open primary could have been restored in 2010, except the law would not have gone into effect until after the candidates had filed for the partisan primaries under the old law.

  4. Jim Riley · · Reply

    #3 The Washington Grange wanted something like the blanket primary. Edwin Edwards wanted something like Democratic primary with runoff.

  5. Reed Ebarb · · Reply

    @ Richard. Thanks for the press. It’s nice to know that all the work we are doing in Louisiana isn’t going unnoticed. We have been working our butt off since April for this and its good to get some attention for it. Thanks again. –Reed Ebarb, Secretary of Libertarian Party of Louisiana

  6. […] 18, 2012 by Ben Jacobs Louisiana has six seats in the US House of Representatives. According to Ballot Access News, there will be Republican candidates running in all six districts, Libertarians running in five and […]

  7. #4,5 – wow, thanks for such a detailed response! I had no idea the history of Louisiana’s electoral system was so complicated. Thing would be so much simpler if they just let parties select candidates however they want, have a general election (with one candidate per party), and then in the event of no winner by majority, have a runoff.

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