Apr 122018
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

While a new national survey shows that a growing interest by young people in voting, younger New Orleanians – still don’t “get” the importance of going to the polls on Election Day based on the turnout in the March 2018 elections. According to the Louisiana Secretary of state, 255,378 New Orleanians were registered to vote on March 24, 2018, the date of our last elections. Only 34,406 (13.5%) actually took the time to vote that day when a new civil district court judge, an appeals court judge and a state representative were selected. Of those who did go to the polls, 7,090 (20.6%) were 18 to 44 years of age. That means 27,313 voters (a whopping 79.4%) were 45 or older. It is also sad to note that 86.5% of registered voters chose not to vote at all.

New Orleans voters are almost equally divided between those over the age of 45 and under that age. Again according to the Louisiana Secretary of State, there are 129,998 New Orleans voters (50.9%) ages 45 and up. Statistics show that 50.9% of our population vote 80% of the time. The remaining 49.1% of the voters – those under that age of 45-only vote 20% of the time.

While younger New Orleanians are quick to call for change on issues like bike lanes, they haven’t committed to taking it to the next level by actually participating in that great experiment we older folks — who actually pay the taxes to stripe the bike lanes — call Democracy.

By law, elections are scheduled every spring and fall in Orleans Parish. In the March elections, most of the candidates had adequate budgets which funded lots of direct mail, social media, special events, field operations and even television commercials. It would be hard for voters to say they didn’t know an election was taking place. Yet it has always been older voters who better understand how government directly affects them. “More mature voters understand the value of the system we are living under, how it works and how to be proactive,” explained one consultant. “Younger voters are less likely to take the positions they advocate for to the next step.”

Though some naysayers might insist that there are too many elections and therefore people get tired of voting, just ask people in countries without a democratic form of government if they think going to the polls twice a year would be a burden.

In his Lunchtime Politics special report yesterday, pollster Ron Faucheaux reported a recent nationwide poll of 18 to 29 year-olds conducted for the Harvard Institute of Politics (March 8-25) in which young people indicated a stronger inclination to vote in 2018. Harvard’s research revealed that 37% of Americans under 30 day they will “definitely” be voting in 2018, an increase of 14% from 2014.

By a margin of 15% young Democrats are more enthusiastic than young Republicans about voting in the November, 2018 midterm Congressional elections. 40% of Americans 18-29 are Democrats and 55% of likely voters 18-29 say they are Democrats. The majority of younger likely voters (69%) would prefer Democratic control of Congress. Fewer of them (than older Americans) approve of President Trump’s job performance. Younger voters also give a higher approval rating to Congressional Democrats over Congressional Republicans.

The survey results did suggest that Americans 18-29 were more likely to trust their college or university administration, their local police department and the U.S. military the majority of the time followed by Amazon, Google, the U.S. Supreme Court, the FB I, the United Nations, in that order. Fewer than 30% of those surveyed trusted Uber, Facebook , Twitter, U.S. Department of Education, the federal government, the media or Wall Street.

In his analysis of Harvard’s data, Faucheux commented that it is ominous for Republicans that more young people are showing a greater interest in voting and casting their ballots for Democrats in the November 2018 elections. In the 2014 midterm elections, young voters supported Democrats over Republicans 54-43, a 9-point margin. Both Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton scored strongly with younger more populist voters.

Some New Orleanians will have the opportunity to go to the polls on April 28 to renew (or not renew) crime prevention millages in the Garden District, Upper Hurstville, and Lakewood neighborhoods. Though the election coincides with Jazz Fest, hopefully more younger voters will be motivated to participate.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom and At-Large City Council candidate Helena Moreno.

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