Secretary of State Tom Schedler is on a mission: Find where Louisiana residents live who have not registered to vote.
Eighty-five percent of Louisiana’s 3.4 million residents eligible to vote are registered — one of the highest percentages in the nation.
But Schedler wants to know more about the 15 percent that haven’t bothered to sign-up.
“We want to know what the unregistered voter looks like and where they live,” Schedler said. “We had never delved down into the details.”
The elections agency has hired Metairie-based GCR Inc. to do mapping from parish to smaller geographical units identifying “hot pockets” of unregistered voters — data that Schedler plans to use for a more targeted “scientific” voter outreach effort.
The information will also be available to local registrars of voters, candidates and activists looking to target their registration efforts, Schedler said. “Data is powerful,” he said.
Schedler said he hopes to be able to unveil the finished product in January.
Schedler got curious about the identity of unregistered voters as a result of a lawsuit over Louisiana not being aggressive enough in pursuing voter registration in social service agency settings. The lawsuit was filed by the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP.
GCR’s statewide analysis, which uses census and registration data, found 537,000 people who haven’t registered to vote — 117,000 of them black.
“I think the perception is that the majority of that 500,000 is African-American,” Schedler said. But the data showed a different picture, he said.
The initial findings also showed that 96 percent of black women eligible to vote are registered; followed by white females at 87 percent; white males at 81 percent and black males at 78 percent.
The lowest registration by age is 18 to 24 at 63 percent. Males in that category are at 57 percent registration.
The statistics show in what general categories voter outreach is needed but now the drilling down comes to see where they live.
“We had the demography of a registered voter. It’s been interesting to see the unregistered,” Schedler said.
Schedler said the elections division’s voter outreach effort covers all 64 parishes with personnel going into high schools and at time conducting mock elections in an effort to encourage registration and voting.
“We need to keep doing that,” Schedler said. “But we can use that map when we figure it out and get it down to more targeted efforts. Maybe we should do 50 percent in the 64 parishes and the other 50 percent and go into a precinct block with below average registration and have some function or a mailout into an area.”
“I think we are going to be able to get a lot more scientific about it,” he said.
“We are going to be spending more emphasis on hot spots and get a little more bang for the dollars we spend. We want to spend more time to get in there and increase our numbers,” Schedler said.
“It affords us a more scientific approach. We will be able to have a better measuring stick of what we are doing,” he said.
Schedler said the system will also allow elections to see what type of outreach efforts are having the best impact.