Nearly 30,000 Caddo Parish residents voted early in 2020. During that critical election, many voters endured long lines that wrapped around the block and others had to walk several blocks to find free parking at voting sites. Some voters felt the lines were too long to wait and resigned to find another time when the wait might not be as long. There are limited hours at the single voting location and the average worker does not have the luxury to take off multiple times.
Shreveport is the parish seat of Caddo Parish and has a population of close to 190,000 people. The parish itself has a land mass of approximately 852 square miles. Smaller parishes in Louisiana such as Calcasieu (Lake Charles) and Bossier Parish (Bossier City) have multiple early voting locations, which helps ease the barriers and burdens of early voting. The single early voting location site in Caddo Parish has served almost as many Black voters as the average number of Black voters per site in the three larger parishes of Jefferson, Orleans, and East Baton Rouge. Research shows limited early voting places severely depresses turnout in elections and that the effects are even more pronounced for Black than white voters.
Community organizations such as the Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce, The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund, NWLA Makerspace, Black Voters Matter Fund, Loving Little Ones Incorporated, South Shreveport Voters League, Noire-Louisiana Black Artists and Creatives Voices for Change, Shreveport Chapter of the NAACP, and The Ollie Initiative have stood in solidarity with disenfranchised voters and urged the Caddo Commission to open more early voting locations by presenting facts and testimonies. In August 2020, citizens spoke out at Commission hearings about the problems they faced with early voting and the need for at least a second location. Through this work and the work of many others who have spoken out in years prior, on September 23, 2021, The Caddo Commission passed a resolution requesting the Registrar of Voters and Caddo Parish Administrator to take all necessary action to add an early voting location at the Shreve Memorial Hamilton Library.
Ease and access for people of color to vote has never been effortless as we know, and even in 2022, the fight for free and fair elections continues. Still, a second early voting location in an area where according to the 2020 Census there has been a significant increase in the Black voting age population is a win! In my work, helping to increase voter turnout, I have seen that early voting gives working-class citizens multiple opportunities to vote, especially in Tuesday elections where taking off work, finding childcare and transportation can be especially difficult.. Opportunities break down barriers and when you break down barriers you start to create equity.
Caddo Parish’s second early voting location will be at Hamilton/ South Caddo Library. This location, in the growing Southern Hills community, provides ample free parking for voters helping to mitigate the issues voters have faced previously navigating long lines and other restrictions a single early voting location perpetuated. As each election becomes increasingly important, we must continue to ease the accessibility for each citizen to participate in the voting process. In this very election, we have slavery on the ballot with Amendment 7 and several elected offices that will help shape the future of the City of Shreveport, Caddo Parish, and Louisiana. Early voting is from October 25th – November 1st and Election Day is November 8th. Every citizen should make sure that they have a voting plan. Whether it’s voting early at one of the now two early voting locations, voting by mail, or voting on election day. All citizens should let their voices be heard and use the power inherently granted in our right to vote.
Billy Anderson is the Northern Louisiana Organizer for the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice.