In 1988, Louisiana voters were treated like royalty by Presidential campaigns. The Republican Party nominated George H.W. Bush at the Republican National Convention held in New Orleans. Just days before the election, Barbara Bush and Republican Vice Presidential nominee Dan Quayle made separate campaign appearances in the state. Louisiana was so electorally imperative that the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen actually campaigned in the state on Election Day.
Because Louisiana was a showdown state, the candidates addressed issues important to the state. Quayle came to Shreveport, Louisiana specifically to announce his support for offshore drilling, which accounts for about 90% of oil produced in the state. Michael Dukakis, the Democratic Presidential nominee, responded to charges that he would “cease offshore drilling” and visited the state where he pledged to support the status quo with respect to drilling.
Louisiana was a bellwether state for much of the last half century, voting for Republicans Barry Goldwater, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, as well as Democrats Adalie Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.
However, since that time, Louisiana has lost its place as a bellwether state, and is now solidly Republican at the Presidential level. Republican Presidential nominee John McCain won the Pelican state in 2008, with 59% of the vote despite making little effort to cultivate support in the state.
Under the winner-take-all electoral regime that Louisiana employs, Presidential Candidates have no electoral incentive to listen to Louisiana voters. Louisianans who once had a voice in influencing Presidential elections are now relegated to the electoral sidelines, as candidates hit the hustings in only about fifteen battleground states.
That means that 27,000 Louisianans who work in the sugar industry have no electoral leverage when it comes to the effects of free trade on their industry. The state’s fishing industry, still trying to come back from the 2010 British Petroleum spill, has no political voice, and the issue of offshore drilling in the state no longer has political resonance.
Louisiana’s disadvantageous electoral position has a direct effect on the state’s rice farmers. Prior to the economic embargo signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, Cuba was the nations’ top rice export market. Louisiana would clearly benefit from being able to sell to this market once again. However, the preponderance of Cuban Americans living in Florida support the embargo. Florida, unlike Louisiana, has political leverage because of the state’s electorally geopolitical advantageous position. No Republican has won the Presidency without carrying this critical swing state since Calvin Coolidge in 1924. They clearly have a bigger political megaphone simply because of where they live.
The National Popular Vote Plan would restore Louisiana’s once esteemed electoral significance. The National Popular Vote Plan is an interstate compact, whereby participating states agree to allocate their electoral votes to the winner of the National Popular Vote, as opposed to the candidate who secures the most votes in their state. The compact would take effect when enough states (constituting the requisite 270 electoral votes required to win the Presidential election) agree to participate. Currently eight states and the District of Columbia, constituting 132 Electoral votes, have ratified the compact.
Despite contemporary belief, the winner-take-all regime was not the grand design of the Founding Fathers. The Founders were deadlocked as to the method of electing the President. They decided to delegate “plenary authority” to the states in awarding their electors, as reflected in Article ll, Section 1, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution, which states: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Accordingly, each state has autonomy to select electors in any way they choose.” In 1789, the year of the first Presidential election, voters of only five states were permitted to mark ballots for Presidential electors. The other states granted the power of voting for Presidential electors to the state legislatures. In fact, New York did not even appoint electors because their legislature was stalemated over the issue. The winner-take-all electoral scheme was designed to protect partisan’s parochial interests. It was not part of a grand design conceptualized by the Founding Fathers.
At the present time, Louisiana voters have virtually no leverage in Presidential politics. The National Popular Vote Plan will make Louisiana voters electorally relevant once again. Presidential Candidates will seek every vote, not just the votes within battleground states. A vote in Stonewall, Louisiana will be commensurate with a vote in Stonewall, North Carolina. The alternative is for Pelican state voters to sit back and be electoral spectators for the foreseeable future. In short, under the National Popular Vote Plan, Every vote will count!