Experts: Lackluster voter turnout expected in Concordia

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 7, 2000

VIDALIA, La. – About 50 to 60 percent of Concordia Parish voters are expected to cast ballots in today’s election — down from four years ago, due to the absence of hotly contested local races.

&uot;Four years ago, 66 percent of voters turned out because there was a really hot Senate race between Woody Jenkins and Mary Landrieu. We don’t have anything like that this year,&uot;&160;said Clerk of Court Clyde Ray Webber. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the parish’s 13,533 registered voters.

Still, the presidential and the Fifth District congressional races will be on the ballot. The latter race will feature U.S. Rep. John Cooksey and challengers Roger Beall and Sam Houston Melton Jr., both Democrats, and Chuck Dumas, an independent.

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Today’s election will also decide raises for teachers and school workers, privatization of state economic development and renewal of a 1.81-mill property tax for the parish’s health unit.

&uot;If there are strong get-out-the-vote campaigns out there, we could have a stronger turnout, but I&160;haven’t seen any,&uot; Webber said. Party activists have made grassroots efforts, mostly by calling voters and going door to door.

Teachers and school support employees have handed out brochures in favor of the so-called Stelly Plan. The plan, one of the ballot’s most talked-about measures, is actually made up of proposed constitutional amendments 2 and 3. If both pass, they would swap some sales taxes for income taxes to raise $200 million a year for education, with at least 80 percent going to raises for teachers and school support workers.

&uot;It’s important for every teacher and support employee that it pass,&uot; said Wilma McKeever, president of the Concordia Federation of Teachers. &uot;It wouldn’t mean that much more in taxes for most people, and if it passes we won’t have to go back to the Legislature every year to beg for money.&uot;

Amendment 1 would form a public-private partnership to replace the Department of Economic Development. Supporters say that would make state economic development efforts more efficient and competitive. Opponents say Louisiana Inc. would use public money but would be largely unaccountable to taxpayers or lawmakers.

Amendment 4 would free parishes and towns to use revenues dedicated to economic development to make grants or loans to people, associations or corporations that agree to locate a new industry or expand an existing one.

Concordia voters will also decide whether to not to renew a 1.81-mill,10-year property tax that brings in about $106,000 a year help pay utilities, maintenance and other operational costs for health units in Ferriday and Vidalia.

Those units provide services such as immunizations, child health screenings, food vouchers under the Women, Infants and Children program, and prenatal care.