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Republicans, Independents Show Strong Growth {in Louisiana}
Baton Rouge, LA, Morning Advocate ^ | 10-11-04 | Sayre, Alan, AP

Posted on 10/11/2004 3:13:51 PM PDT by Theodore R.

Republicans, independents show strong growth

By ALAN SAYRE Associated Press writer

Almost twice as many new voters have registered as Republicans than Democrats over the past year in Louisiana, but the biggest jump comes among those claiming no party affiliation.

The deadline for registering for the November presidential election was Oct. 4, but an official of the state Democratic Party said some of the new registrations still have not been delivered to the secretary of state. He predicted that when all are included, Democrats will have a much-stronger showing.

As of Monday, there were 2.89 million registered voters in Louisiana, 107,282 more than in November 2003, according to the secretary of state's office.

The increase includes 21,515 additional Democrats, 41,017 Republicans and 44,750 registering as "other," or claiming no party affiliation.

Observers said one reason for the large number of independents could be Louisiana's "open primary" system, in which everyone votes on the same ballot, regardless of party.

Comparing the numbers from the 2000 presidential election, there are 93,430 more total registrations. The Democrats are down by 70,649, the Republicans are up by 74,294 and the number of independent voters has climbed by 89,785.

Louis Rainey, political director for the Louisiana Democratic Party, said that by the time all of the eligible voter registration cards are added to the secretary of state's count, he expects at least 30,000 additional voters registered Democratic over last year.

"You will definitely see the results in the Nov. 2 election of our voter registration efforts," Rainey said.

Jon Bargas, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party, said he saw the increased number of Republican registrations as a sign that many voters are registering the way they actually vote.

"We're seeing those conservative Democrats who generally vote Republican, especially in national elections, getting around to saying, 'Hey, I'm going to switch parties,'" Bargas said.

Wayne Parent, a political science professor at Louisiana State University, said the figures, especially compared to four years ago, show a growing strength of the Republican Party in Louisiana.

He said the increase in independents stems from the fact that without closed party primaries, Louisiana voters -- regardless of registration -- can participate in nearly all elections. The main exceptions are early presidential preference primaries and elections for party officials.

Prior to the open primary system, parties selected candidates like in most other states -- in closed primaries restricted to voters that had registered with those parties.

"In the last 30 years, people have realized that registering independent doesn't hurt anything," Parent said.

Bargas said the large number of independent registrations is indicative of the independence of many voters in a state that went for Bush in 2000, re-elected Democrat Mary Landrieu to the U.S. Senate in 2002 and then put Democrat Kathleen Blanco in the governor's mansion in 2003.

"Louisiana voters always have been very independent, which is part of the reason the state has been behind the curve with the rest of the South in electing Republican candidates," Bargas said.

Political pollster Silas Lee of New Orleans said that the increasing number of independent voters will result in candidates having to change their strategies.

"They now have to appeal more to those who are labeled swing voters," Lee said. "That's a national trend, people who want to experiment politically. Party affiliation is less of a predictor than in the past."

TOPICS: Politics/Elections; US: Louisiana
KEYWORDS: democrats; independents; jonbargas; la; louisrainey; marylandrieu; openprimary; republicans; wayneparent

1 posted on 10/11/2004 3:13:52 PM PDT by Theodore R.
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To: Theodore R.

Not good for the Democratic Party.

2 posted on 10/11/2004 3:24:31 PM PDT by Ptarmigan (Proud rabbit hater and killer)
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To: Theodore R.

Added this to the Louisiana group.

3 posted on 10/12/2004 3:57:04 PM PDT by Bogey78O (John Kerry: Better than Ted Kennedy!)
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