More than 1,000 voters in Louisiana registered their disgust with two historically unpopular candidates for President over the last month by registering for the Libertarian Party, at a time when New Orleans activists are preparing to ramp up their fight against a proposed proliferation of red-light cameras.
The Libertarian Party had 13,868 voters registered across Louisiana as of Monday, Oct. 17 — an increase of more than 1,000 people since a month ago, said Wendy Adams, executive director of the New Orleans chapter of the party. Likewise, in New Orleans alone, 1,591 voters are registered as Libertarian, up by 100 people since September, she said.
“We have not done that ever,” Adams said of the rapid increases.
Despite deepening national narratives about the flaws of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Adams said she did not think the surge in new Libertarians was tied to any specific revelation about either candidate. Rather, she said, the Nov. 8 election is approaching, voters are making sure their paperwork is in order, and simply checking the box for Libertarian instead of either of the major parties.
Adams has worked voter-registration tables at both the University of New Orleans and Loyola University over the last month, and said the party is attracting fed-up voters fleeing both parties. Everyone has a candidate they are more repulsed by than the other, but once she explains Louisiana is nothing close to a “swing state” that could decide the election in favor of either Trump or Clinton, voters become more receptive to her message.
“Once we explained that it doesn’t matter who they vote for in Louisiana because it’s probably going to go to Trump, they were happy to come over,” Adams said at the monthly meeting of the Orleans Libertarians.
Numbers from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office show all parties in the state grew their numbers of registered voters from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, the most recent dates available. The 7-percent rate of growth shown by the Libertarians, however, vastly outpaces either the Republicans (1.2 percent increase), the Democrats (0.3 percent increase) or the state as a whole (0.7 percent increase).
Further, Adams said she expects those to numbers to continue to rise after the votes are counted, and one of those intensely disliked major-party candidates becomes President.
“I’m expecting a large number of people come over after the election, because of their disappointment with the result however it comes out,” Adams said.
While the Libertarians concede that a victory for their candidate, Gary Johnson, is unlikely now that he was excluded from the debates, their focus is on party building toward the next cycle. Adams said the major parties suppress outsider candidates anyway — like Bernie Sanders or Ron Paul — so it makes more sense for voters to switch to the Libertarian Party as a show of solidarity.
“The reason we need people to register Libertarian is to quantify the number of people who believe in Libertarian principles, so we can recruit candidates,” Adams said.
“So many people say they want to see a third party succeed,” said Daniel Hayes, a Jefferson Parish resident who serves on the Libertarian National Committee. “This is a way to help create belief. As the party starts to become statistically significant, people are going to start to believe this is possible. It’s a bandwagon.”
Those growing numbers will be especially helpful as the party launches its opposition to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to double the number of traffic cameras around New Orleans, said Orleans Parish party chair Mike Dodd. The Orleans Parish chapter is active in lobbying against new laws it opposes, and party members have long described their belief that traffic cameras and other forms of government surveillance represent an unnecessary intrusion into citizens’ private lives.
After the election only three weeks away, the local Libertarians will make opposing any expansion of those cameras a primary rallying point before the City Council, Dodd said, and the growing numbers of registered voters will help.
“1,500 people is a lot of people to walk in there with,” Dodd said.