Voters all over the state are facing unusually lengthy ballots on Election Day. Between the Senate race, all the congressional races, judicial races, school board and other contests, there are more than 4,400 candidates for more than 2,400 offices statewide. No matter where you are in Louisiana, you can expect to see at least 20 items on your ballot. And once you’re in the voting booth, you won’t have much time to decide.
Okay, we’ve got a lot to get through in three minutes, because that’s all you’ve got in the voting booth. It even says so right here in state statute: “A voter shall not remain in a voting machine longer than three minutes. If a voter fails to leave a voting machine promptly after a commissioner has notified him that three minutes have elapsed, the commissioners shall have the voter removed from the voting machine.”
Meg Casper, press secretary for the Secretary of State, says you probably don’t have to worry about that last part.
“Rarely is anyone pulled out of a machine," she says.
The bigger concern is that voters won't make it all the way to the bottom of the ballot.
“This is the largest election in terms of number of candidates, number of races, that we’ve seen in ten years,” Casper says.
Say you live in my district in Baton Rouge. That means you’re voting for a Senate seat - eight candidates right there. 12 candidates are running for the sixth district congressional seat. There are three judges to elect, one school board member, and then after all that, notes Robert Travis Scott, President of the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, are the 14 constitutional amendments.
“Three minutes and you’ve got all these items on there, you only have an average of eight seconds per item to vote on, and you might take that much time just verifying that you pushed the right button,” he says
The amendments alone can take 4-5 minutes to read for the first time. Some are pretty dense.
Louisiana has one of the shortest voting time limits in the country. States including New Jersey and Indiana have even shorter limits of two minutes, while New York and Texas have no limits on the books. California, famous for its ballot measures, has a ten minute limit. But California only has 6 ballot measures for voters to consider this time around. Louisiana has those 14 amendments.
Scott says in 1970, when there were more than 50 amendments, voters got fed up with the bulk of the ballot.
“There were more than 50 constitutional amendments that were put before the people. And what happened then is the voters rejected ALL OF THEM," he says. "That lead to a constitutional convention where they created a whole new constitution.”
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says it may be time to again consider some kind of restriction on the number of constitutional amendments put on a ballot. But for now, do your homework! because before you know it, time's up!