By Austen Angers
If no candidate wins the jungle primary on election day, then the process goes to a runoff election. This serves as a sort of “second round.” The designated date for this is December 10th, for this year. Even more confusing, the LA Secretary of State calls this “runoff” the General Election.
Our system differs from the process that most states have in place. The more common approach is the “traditional primary.” In a traditional primary process, the primary is sometime in the spring or summer. States may implement closed primary or open primary rules. In a closed primary, only members of a certain party can vote in that party’s primary election. In other words, a Republican voting in a Republican primary in which all other parties are prohibited from voting, is voting in a closed primary. Alternatively, in an open primary any registered voter can cast a ballot to narrow the field, regardless of party registration. A majority of the states have chosen to employ regular primaries, either open or closed, which occur before the fall.
The major differences between Louisiana’s jungle primary and a typical open primary are the time of year, and in a jungle primary all candidates of all parties are on a single ballot. Only Louisiana, Washington, and California use a single ballot listing all candidates. In these states’ elections, the top two vote getters in a given race advance to the general election. This has produced a number of election peculiarities in the past, such as this jungle primary resulting in the top two candidates belonging to the same party. In that scenario, an opposition party might be locked out of a runoff election, as a result of their candidate(s) failing to reach first or second place in the first round.
To give some historical background on the Louisiana jungle primary, we have to examine changes to the law starting in the 1970s. Before this era, elections in Louisiana resembled the process that most other states use. The 1975 election was the last time that Louisiana held closed primaries, using a more traditional system. During the 1971 cycle, Democratic candidate Edwin Edwards faced the challenge of two separate primary elections for the gubernatorial race. This meant that Edwards had to survive a party primary on November 6, 1971, a runoff for the Democratic nomination on December 18, 1971, and lastly, a general election on February 1, 1972. This was a point of agitation, as Edward’s Republican opponent for Governor did not have to face the three rounds of elections that Edwards experienced that cycle. Once elected the 50th Governor of Louisiana, Edwards designed our current jungle primary process. This change to Louisiana election law began to require the open, election day primaries that we use today.
Regardless of your state’s electoral laws and systems, it is the responsibility of every citizen in our democracy to vote and to be informed about our elections and candidates for office. If you have any questions about how to vote or how to register to vote, please contact the statewide election official: the Secretary of State.
Louisiana’s Secretary of State is Kyle Ardoin.
The Secretary of State's Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Contact information: https://www.sos.la.gov/OurOffice/ContactUs/Pages/default.aspx