15 June 2006

Floor action, Jun. 15: SB 18, SB 86

SB 18 would set a closed primary system for congressional elections. Handler Rep. Charlie Lancaster noted that under the current blanket primary system Louisiana congressmen got a late start because the U.S. Supreme Court treats the primary election as a general election and thus the general election it classifies as a runoff, occurring after the first Tuesday after the first Monday Constitutional stricture. Lancaster noted two different solutions to this had failed judicial tests, so this was the next logical step.

Rep. John Alario offered amendments to change the way independent voters were treated. The bill was going to allow parties to allow independents to vote in their primaries if they wished; Alario wanted to have them automatically able to choose one party’s nominee unless the party chose to prohibit that. It was adopted by consent.

Rep. Joel Robideaux said he didn’t like the bill even with the amendment “for obvious reasons” (maybe because he is the only independent in the Legislature). He said it would still discriminate against non-affiliated voters (independents) and set a bad precedent. Rep. Peppi Bruneau said it was the “fairest” system., and said getting a late start wasn’t so bad – plus, later elections might attract a disproportionate amount of money from outsiders spent on campaigns. Rep. Billy Chandler argued primaries would have very low turnouts to determine party nominees under the bill.

Lancaster pointed out that anybody can vote for anybody when the general election came around, and that turnouts usually are pretty decent on those days. He reminded that the courts took a lot of discretion out of their hands, so this was what had to be done.

The bill passed 58-35.

SB 86 would extend the hours for early voting on the final day (Saturday, a week before the election). An amendment passed without objection which allowed existing employees who were elections commissioners to be employed during the extra four hours, which might actually save money, according to handler Rep. Rick Gallot.

Rep. Kay Katz sprung a surprise amendment, to change election day poll hours from 6 AM to 8 PM to 7 AM to 7 PM, a separate bill she had tried to get passed. She said with more early voting hours this made this money-saving move even more sensible, and would prevent fatigue of commissioners. Rep. Willie Hunter questioned the germaneness of the amendment to the bill, and Speaker Joe Salter said it was not.

The House went right to a vote, and the bill passed 84-13.

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