If we charged a committee of experts with the task of picking the absolute worst time of year to hold a citywide election in New Orleans, they could not possibly come up with a more ill-suited time for choosing a new mayor and City Council than the schedule we already follow.
Not just for Election Day itself, but also for the run-up to the big day and for the runoff.
Here we sit in mid-November, just three weeks shy of qualifying. This should be a very busy time in New Orleans politics — but we have our priorities.
First, there's Thanksgiving, which is next week. For many, it's an abbreviated workweek, and for some it's a week to worry what the kids are doing while we work.
Then we get two weeks of actual campaigning before qualifying (which is Dec. 9-11). But, right after qualifying closes at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11, Hanukkah begins. For Christians, fuhgettaboutit. The stores already have Christmas decorations up, and the Yuletide spirit (read: shopping madness) will be in full swing starting the day after Thanksgiving.
And, just two weeks after qualifying closes, we have Christmas Day, which means we effectively have (at most) 10 days of campaigning before the 12 days of Christmas. As for campaigning between Christmas and New Year's, well, fuhgettaboutit. Those who are out of town won't be paying attention, and many who are in town will be celebrating Kwanzaa on Dec. 28.
Then there's New Year's Day and the college bowl games, which means campaigning for citywide and council district offices might begin in earnest on or about Jan. 4. That leaves us less than five weeks of not-quite-uninterrupted campaigning before the Feb. 6 primary.
Oh, there will be other interruptions. You can count on it.
Like Twelfth Night on Jan. 6 — the official kickoff of the Mardi Gras season, a season which ranks right up there with Christmas and Jazz Fest on our list of favorite distractions. And speaking of Mardi Gras, did I mention that there will be six major Carnival parades on Feb. 6 — the day of our citywide primary?
And, just to top it all off, the Saints appear to be headed for the NFL playoffs, possibly even (dare I say it?) the Super Bowl, which is Feb. 7, the day after the citywide primary. Even if the Saints don't reach the Super Bowl (slap me!), their playoff games loom as a bigger distraction than Christmas and Mardi Gras combined.
Moreover, if the Saints do reach the Super Bowl (which is in Miami), how many Who Dats will remember to vote before leaving for South Beach? Talk about skewing voter turnout! (Somewhere, there's a differential equation relating Drew Brees' completion percentage to voter turnout, but I'll be damned if I can figure it out.)
All of these distractions factor into the Feb. 6 primary. Before we get to the March 6 runoff, we still have to get past Mardi Gras on Feb. 16 — which gives us a little over two weeks to differentiate between the finalists for mayor and any other elections that remain unresolved.
Truly, if we wanted to pick a more confounding time to hold our elections, we couldn't do better (or worse) than we're doing right now.
The solution, of course, is for the next mayor and council to shorten their terms by a few months (say, to mid-March — just to make sure we get past Mardi Gras) and move the elections up to October and November. Then again, that would require injecting logic into the differential equation of New Orleans politics.