The Senate as well as other congressional contests are closed primary affairs.
Out of the 17 candidates, only eight choices will be voted on. The Republican and Democrat battles will have three choices each, and the Libertarian will have two candidates in their primary. If a majority is not reached in the primaries, the run-off election will be October 2.
The problem, for some of the candidates, is that the nine remaining candidates for the U.S. Senate seat are listed as no party or unaffiliated. Thus, they will not enter the Senate race picture until the November election.
“All the no party guys get to take a powder until November and get to wait and see what happens with those slugging it out” in party primaries, said Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, whose office oversees elections.
Usually in Louisiana, state and local elections are run on an open primary basis and all candidates, regardless of party, compete on the same ballot with all voters able to participate.
Dardenne said he’s taking some solace in the fact that after the 2010 elections the state will return for federal elections.
The law that initiated the closed party system was repealed by legislators, effective in January, because voters have found the process too confusing. Election day confusion has come because of the ground rules for participation by the state’s 2.9 million registered voters. But, for the 2010 election season, the closed system will be intact.
“It’s going to be another logistical headache for (poll) commissioners and a source of confusion for voters,” Dardenne said.
Here’s how the August 28, Senate ballot will appear, based on party affiliation of candidate and voter.
• Registered Republican voters will vote only on Republican candidates. Their ballot will feature, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, incumbent; former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Taylor, of Monroe; and physician Nick Accardo, of Franklin.
• Registered Democratic voters will vote only on Democrat candidates. Their ballot will have U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville; Neeson J. Chauvin Jr., of Carencro; and Cary J. Deaton, of Metairie.
• Registered Libertarian voters will only vote for either Anthony Gentile, of Mandeville, or Randall Todd Hayes, of Atlanta, La.
• Unaffiliated or no party voters, an estimated 22 percent of the state’s electorate, will be able to participate in either the Democratic or Libertarian party primaries. They will not be able to participate in the Republican contest, however.
• Voters in either of the two other recognized parties, Green party with 1,229 registered voters and Reform party with 1,436, are completely shut out of the primary elections because each party has one candidate.
Voters have until July 28 to change their registration prior to August 28, party contests. Dardenne said voters could switch party affiliation if they want to participate in a particular party’s primary.
State Democratic Party Executive Director Renee Lapeyrolerie said the party will be reaching out to unaffiliated voters as well as some 1.49 million party registrants.
“We embrace the Independents,” Lapeyrolerie said. “If we are able to attract them on August 28, they will stick with us through November 2. That’s advantageous to us.”