This October, the primary ballot is packed. Voters will choose from dozens of candidates in six statewide races and weigh in on four constitutional amendments. It’s a lot of votes to cast, and that’s before local offices are added to the mix.
For young voters, especially those voting for the first time, the sheer size of the ballot can be a turnoff.
Despite recent attempts to encourage participation, young voters in Lafayette say they are overwhelmed by the civic education required to be an active participant in local politics.
Young voters still feel that there is not adequate information on the candidates running available to them ahead of the election. Complicated candidate websites are hard to navigate, and searching for information can take a lot of time young, working individuals or students may not have.
“It is too overwhelming,” says Camille Jones, a student studying political science at UL Lafayette. Jones considers herself to be very politically conscious, but is taking a hands-off approach to the next election.
Since last year’s Supreme Court decision ending federal protections for abortion rights, she has been checked out of local and state-wide politics. She has an apathetic approach to this election, saying she does not feel as connected to candidates or policies as she has previously.
Election Day is Oct. 14.
Early voting is underway.
We’ve put together one-stop shop for voter and candidate information for the 2023 primary ballot in Lafayette Parish.
“I actually have been really jaded this election cycle,” Jones says.
A PEW Research study from 2018 found that younger voters are more likely to view voting as confusing and inconvenient when compared to older generations. The same study reports that two out of 10 voters cite struggling to find accurate electoral information on candidates as an inhibitor to the civic process.
Some local organizers are taking a hands-on approach to encourage voters to get involved.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization that focuses on voter registration and engagement, is working to make candidates and policies more accessible to the average voter.
Christie Maloyed, the voter services chair for the Lafayette chapter, says the forums have been successful. Maloyed herself was unsure of Lafayette politics following her move to Acadiana in 2015. She joined the League of Women Voters shortly after, since they were the only organization she could find putting on public forums.
“It is hard to figure out what is going on and find non-partisan sources of information,” Maloyed says. “It is harder with local elections since local newspapers have closed.”
The League of Women Voters has tried to fill that gap and make election information feel less overwhelming.
The league is holding a series of voter forums where the community can directly interact with the candidates running to represent them. The forums are held at various branches of the Lafayette Public Library where anybody can attend, and live streamed on AOC Community Media for constituents at home to view.
At the forums, candidates sit in front of the audience and are asked policy-related questions. The questions are created by members of the league and candidates do not have access to these questions prior to the forum.
These forums are not debates. Every candidate on the ballot is invited to participate in the forum for their race, and the league does not require candidates to meet specific qualifications to participate.
The response has been positive, Maloyed says. Each forum has averaged about 50 audience members. Candidate participation has been strong.
The League of Women Voters also has a website, vote411.org, intended as a “one-stop-shop,” to get election information.
Election information is everywhere. Candidates have websites and social media accounts. And while outreach work can help invite voters in, it often reaches those who are most interested in elections already. Often, young voters aren’t even aware an election is happening.
Kelly Sullivan, a student at Louisiana State University who is also working on a gubernatorial campaign, says when she talks to peers about her work, a lot of them do not even know there is an upcoming election.
Throughout her time campaigning, she has found that people are interested in the election when she talks to them about it, but aren’t aware of the approaching primary.