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53% of Central Louisiana voters are Democrats

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Written by
Bret H. McCormick

From: The-Town




Rapides Parish is following the statewide trend of voters moving away from the Democratic Party, but Democrats still make up the overall majority of the Central Louisiana voting population.

The latest figures compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office show that Democrats no longer make up a majority of voters in Louisiana for the first time since records began being kept in 1957, according to The Associated Press.

Of the state’s 2.8 million registered voters, 49.8 percent (1.4 million) are registered Democrats, down from about 90 percent in the late 1970s. About 26.7 percent of voters are Republicans (756,319), and about 23.4 percent are registered as independent or with third parties (662,276).

In Central Louisiana’s 13 parishes, however, of the nearly 280,000 registered voters, more than 53 percent of them remain loyal to the Democratic Party, according to figures compiled at the beginning of August and available on the Secretary of State’s Office website.

Just because Democrats remain the majority in Cenla doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a dilution of the party’s stranglehold in the region. In Rapides Parish, only 49.1 percent of voters are Democrats.

Joanell Wilson, registrar of voters for Rapides Parish, said the parish has seen a “gradual shift” in voters moving away from the Democratic Party since the 1970s.

At that time, the state had only Democratic primaries, and Wilson said there were “less than 150 Republicans” in the parish in the early part of that decade. As the state went to open primaries, many voters switched their parties to reflect the more conservative values of the Republican Party.

“For the last 10 years, we have seen a tremendous shift from people who were registered Democrats to people who changed their parties to become non-affiliates or the Republican Party,” Wilson said.

Not only have people switched parties, but she has seen many first-time registrants who are signing up without a party, a challenge to both major parties who are competing for new voters. Wilson said that could cause the two parties to narrow the focus about what they truly believe.

The trend for the parties is the definition of their policies will have to be more elaborated,” Wilson said. “I don’t think they’ve been elaborated as much in the past as they should have been. I think we’ll see more definition of what a Democrat stands for and a Republican stands for.”

Gloria Moreau, registar of voters in Democratic-heavy Avoyelles Parish, said she has seen a “definite increase” in party switches over the past couple of years.

“There have been a large number of people interested in changing,” she said.

That trend also has been seen in Grant Parish.

Shirley Chelette, registrar of voters in Grant Parish, said there has been a “slight” shift away from registered Democrats in the parish.

“A lot of people are going (no party) or Republican,” she said.

In the past four years, Democratic registration has decreased sharply across the state, down by almost 100,000 voters. There is only one current Democratic official who was elected in a statewide election — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of New Orleans. Both the Louisiana House and Senate have Republican majorities.

Although the numbers still show a wide disparity in Avoyelles Parish, which Moreau said likely will “always” lean Democratic, the figures are shifting.

More than 16,000 of Avoyelles Parish’s 24,775 registered voters are Democrats, but Republicans and third-party voters now make up 35 percent of parish voters, a staggering number considering the influence of longtime Democratic politician Edwin Edwards, a Marksville native.

Moreau said most of the people switching parties in the parish are shifting from Democratic to Republican, though the GOP represents less than 16 percent of all voters, and new voters typically are registering with no party.

Although she and her office typically lean away from making political statements, Moreau said she hears all kinds of reasons — some crazy, some reasonable — for people switching parties.

“They fuss about everything from local to federal (politics),” she said. “They’re just unhappy with the current way things are, and I guess this is just their way of expressing their displeasure.”

Only Evangeline Parish, which sees two-thirds of its 22,087 voters as Democrats, has a higher percentage of registered Democrats than Avoyelles Parish. Allen and Catahoula parishes each have more than 62 percent Democratic voters, while nine of the region’s 13 parishes are majority-Democrat.

Grant and Vernon parishes each have about 46 percent of voters registered as Democrats, while Beauregard Parish has the lowest percentage of Democrats in Cenla at 42 percent.


Written by demon53

August 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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