Below the presidential ballot, Louisiana voters will decide Tuesday on a wide variety of elections and ballot measures, including all of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, one of its seats in the Senate, key positions in local government and a slate of constitutional amendments — including two (No. 4 and No. 5) with the potential to do real harm to Louisiana’s ability to provide basic services to its residents. As Sam Karlin reports in The Baton Rouge Advocate | Nola.com, a potential record number of Louisiana voters are set to make their voices heard this election:
In East Baton Rouge Parish, the “eye-popping” surge in early votes points to an “overall very high turnout” in the contest, said Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn. Nearly 100,000 have already cast ballots in the parish, double the early voting period from 2016. … About 47,000 voters — an “incredible” amount — have already voted in Lafayette, said Louis Perret, the parish clerk of court. He hopes the parish will set a record for turnout, pushing 80%, when all is said and done. Normally, mail in ballots total around 2,400, and the parish was at 11,000 and counting Thursday, he said. “We are in unprecedented times of a voter turnout that we have never seen before. If this holds true … I believe we will set a record in Lafayette Parish,” Perret said.
With the presidential race taking up most of the air in the room, The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports, the contest between incumbent U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins (Cassidy’s leading challenger) hasn’t generated much media attention — a situation that could change if Cassidy is forced into a runoff:
Cassidy made himself available to reporters for 15 minutes on Saturday after receiving a briefing at the Jefferson Parish Emergency Operations Center in Gretna on the recovery effort from Hurricane Zeta. No reporters showed up. … Meanwhile, Perkins on Saturday went door to door with Voice of the Experienced, a nonprofit, in Baton Rouge, and met with students supporting him in New Orleans. On Sunday, Perkins met with supporters in New Orleans and Donaldsonville. None of the events generated media coverage.
The time crunch for low-wage parents
With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25 an hour, many workers are forced to work long hours in multiple jobs to make ends meet for their families. But as Jason DeParle explains in the New York Times, the stronger safety-net policies Congress put in place early in the pandemic brought an unexpected blessing: freeing many parents from some of the stress of unemployment and allowing them more time with their kids. Now, with no additional relief in sight, those working families are facing a hard crash:
“Work-life conflict” is often discussed as a problem of the privileged classes, but low-wage workers may suffer it most, with unpredictable hours, less help with chores like cooking and cleaning and little economic choice. The sudden increase of time with their children has reminded some low-income parents of what they have been missing. “You know, I’ve gotten to know my kids a lot more,” said Aileen Kelly, a single mother of five who lost her job as a casino housekeeper at the pandemic’s start. “When you’re working, you don’t get the real feeling of raising your kids. You’re providing for them but you’re not teaching them.” Such rewards do not reduce the risks that unemployment brings — Ms. Kelly has doubled up with a friend, in an apartment with 10 children — but they do offer a window into an overlooked strain on the lives of poor families.
Status quo on UI trust fund
One of the Legislature’s key goals for its October special session was to shore up Louisiana’s bankrupt unemployment insurance trust fund. But legislators elected to punt the problem into 2021 – in essence, hoping that Congress will fix what the state could not. But, as AP’s Melinda Deslatte writes, holding fast to the status quo won’t fix the fund’s immediate budget problems, nor will it boost benefits that remain nearly the lowest in the nation.
During one hearing, Alexandria Democratic Sen. Jay Luneau asked the question no one has yet answered about returning the unemployment trust fund to solvency: “Where in the world are we going to get the money to pay for this?” For now, all eyes remain on Congress. “Are we going to get money (from Washington) after the election? I think everybody believes we will in some form or fashion” (Senate President Page) Cortez said.
LBP’s Neva Butkus has recommendations for how lawmakers can shore up the state’s inadequate unemployment system when they return for the Legislature’s regular session in the spring.
Hunger in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has drawn attention as a key swing state in Tuesday’s presidential election. As the Keystone State’s citizens head to the polls, many also face staggering rates of need. The Guardian’s Nina Lakhani has the story on how many voters in what may be the nation’s most closely-watched state Tuesday night are struggling to keep food on the table:
Food banks distributed almost 1.17m aid boxes in the first three weeks of October, providing fresh produce and staples like rice, pasta and peanut butter to 2.75 million people. October will almost certainly beat the previous record monthly distribution from July, when 1.38m households received food boxes across the state. “These numbers have floored me,” said Sheila Christopher, executive director of Pennsylvania Food Banks. “Demand is going up across the state and the country. We’ve never seen anything like this before, it gives me goosebumps.”
Number of the Day
$480 billion – Estimated minimum budget shortfall that America’s states, local governments, and tribal nations and territories face through 2022 (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)