Election Year 2020

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From oaths to office, politics are prevalent in year ahead

By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

Patsy Ward-Hoover recites the oath of office as Dist. 2 Parish Councilwoman as administered by Clerk of Court David Stamey. Photos by Hannah Richardson
John Salter, left, makes it official after he is sworn in as Dist. 5 Parish Councilman.

It is a big year for the voting process with up to four elections scheduled in 2020, pending runoffs. It is a presidential election year as well as some big races for high profile local positions including Natchitoches Mayor and council members.

The first election is the Presidential Preference Primary/Municipal Primary election Saturday, April 4.  It allows the electors of each political party having 40,000 or more registered voters to express their preference for their party’s presidential nominee.

Clerk of Court David Stamey said this year, if a voter is a registered Republican, the voter can only choose from the Republican candidates, and likewise for registered Democrats. In a twist, voters registered as Independent or No Party may choose one candidate from either the Republican party or Democratic party, but not one from both.

Should a voter wish to change their party, Registrar of Voters Kathryn Holden said changes must be made by the close of books 30 days prior to the election in person or by mail or 20 days prior to the election date online.

Qualifying for the April 4 election began Jan. 8 and concludes Jan. 10 at the Clerk of Court’s office. Hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Local races include: •Natchitoches Mayor, council members and councilman-at-large

•Clarence Mayor and all aldermen

•Powhatan Mayor and all aldermen

Qualifying fees must be paid in the form of cash, certified or cashier’s check, or money order and must be accompanied by the qualifying form available at the Secretary of State website. Powhatan, Clarence and Natchitoches City Council fees are $40 plus an additional $40 if candidate is a member of the Democratic or Republican parties (see below for related information) Natchitoches Mayor and Councilman-at-Large fees are $75 plus the party fees. Holden advises the deadline to register to vote in person or by mail is March 4. Deadline to register to vote through the GeauxVote Online Registration System is March 14.

Early voting is March 21-28, except Sunday, from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Deadline to request an absentee by mail ballot is March 31 by 4:30 p.m. Deadline for the registrar of voters to receive a voted mail ballot is April 3 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).

Other election dates are Saturday, May 9, Tuesday, Nov. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 5. If unsure if you are registered to vote, a list of inactive voters published in the Natchitoches Times Dec. 12. It is available online at www.publicnoticeads.com/LA.

Also on the April 4 ballot are the little known positions of the Republican or Democrat State Central Committee members and the Parish Executive Committee members. La. statutes provide that each party be controlled by a central committee on the state level and an executive committee on the parish level.  These committees are essentially governing bodies for those political parties.

Parish Executive Committees have the general responsibility for their party affairs at the local level. They are responsible for the endorsement of local candidates, as well as for building party infrastructure within their communities. They can also fundraise and affiliate with local organizations.

The State Central Committee is the governing body for their party statewide.  Ideally, they help elect candidates in local, state and national elections, conduct the National Committee delegate selection process, promote and build the state party, fundraises, conduct research on judicial or executive issues and maintain voter relations, education and leadership programs

Commissioners-in-Charge for the upcoming election year completed training Tuesday, Jan. 7 at the Events Center in preparation of manning the voting precincts in the parish.

Parish and state committees are allowed to collect revenues such as donations and qualifying fees paid at the time of qualification. Committees report to the state Legislative Auditor. The fees cannot directly benefit any particular candidate and are used solely for the operation of the committees.

Lamar McGaskey is a member-at-large for the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Natchitoches Parish and Paul Fleming is the representative for the Republican party. McGaskey said the Democratic committee is not very active, but is available if needed. He said there was a parish committee years ago and it lapsed. He and Larry Paige of Natchitoches founded the new committee several years ago because they felt it didn’t need to disappear in the parish. “Somebody had to run,” McGaskey said.

He said it’s structure consists of representatives of several districts, which are aligned with the school board districts. If no one runs, representatives can be appointed. “We have to send a letter to the Secretary of State,” he said. Since the parish committee was reinstated, McGaskey said Paige was elected to serve at the state level.

Fleming echoed McGaskey’s comments. He added that there is no pay for the position except for a nominal fee for attending the election commission meetings. “All commission members get a check from the Secretary of State,” he said. He emphasized that any fees collected at the parish level have strict restrictions on their use. “For one, I cannot use the money for any of my expenses,” he said. Fleming said ideally there would be one person running from each of the districts, however that has never been the case. “People don’t even want to be an appointee. I have no answer for that,” he said.

If anyone would like to serve on either committee, the guidelines are listed below. To qualify for a position on the parish committee, a candidate must be 18 years old by the time of the election, a registered Democrat or Republican and live in the district you will represent.

In addition, there are two seats in each state legislative district, one for a male and one for a female. Qualifying fee is $112.50

McGaskey and Fleming both said they would be happy to have people contact them who would be willing to be appointed.