Monday, October 23, 2006


Change is coming for La. congressional elections

The Associated Press


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana will hold elections for congressional seats next month, just as it does every two years. But these elections probably will be the last of their kind.

A new state law means Louisiana is letting go of its free-for-all, nonpartisan open elections, at least in races for the U.S. Senate and House. Barring an unexpected objection from the U.S. Justice Department — which maintains a 40-year-old oversight of elections in the South — Louisiana will shift to closed, party primaries for all federal elections beginning next year.

Consider the race for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., covering New Orleans and the West Bank of Jefferson Parish. It will be a lengthy ballot on Nov. 7, with nine Democrats, three Republicans and a Libertarian. If no one wins a majority of the votes, a runoff will be held in December — making Louisiana the only state that still hasn't finished congressional voting.

In 2008, the system will be different. The incumbent and challengers will run in their respective party primaries in September. If one or both parties lacks a front-runner with a majority of votes, closed party runoff elections will follow in October.

The winners of those party primaries — plus independents and third-party candidates — will run in a winner-take-all election in November.

That will eliminate the December runoff scenario that now puts Louisiana a month behind other states in settling its membership in Congress.

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