Travel

Your Guide to the Midterm Election in New Orleans This November

Everything you need to know to make sure your vote counts in 2022.

Southern University and A&M College - Baton Rouge, LA
Southern University and A&M College – Baton Rouge, LA
Southern University and A&M College – Baton Rouge, LA

The 2022 Midterm Election is coming up on Tuesday, November 8, with all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate up for grabs across the nation. 

In Louisiana, there’s the Open Congressional Primary and New Orleans residents are voting on statewide, parishwide, and limited jurisdiction positions and propositions.

One item of note-that highlights why it’s so important to cast your vote-is the 2022 Louisiana congressional redistricting following the 2020 census. Though Louisiana’s population is about one-third Black, the redistricting resulted in only one staunchly Democratic majority Black district out of six. This was essentially the same representation as before, despite an increasing Black population, and many agree that it’s racial gerrymandering which goes against the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Louisiana legislature drew a redistricting map. Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed it on the grounds that it didn’t add a second majority-minority district, representative of the state’s current demographics. The Louisiana legislature overrode the governor’s veto. Civil Rights groups and Black voters filed a federal lawsuit (Robinson et al v. Ardoin). Then there was a hearing, appeal, special session, administrative stay, another special session, House Bills, testimonies, more special sessions, another stay, an amicus curiae brief (Alabama’s Merrill v. Milligan)-months of back and forth. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Merrill v. Milligan on October 4, once the new term has begun, with a ruling anticipated for spring 2023. That, unfortunately, won’t affect the current election but will hopefully result in fair representation from 2023 and beyond.

The City Of NOLA
The City Of NOLA
The City Of NOLA

What’s on the ballot?

On New Orleans’ November 8, 2022 ballot, there are eight constitutional amendments, a parishwide amendment, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative 1st Congressional District or U.S. Representative 2nd Congressional District, Court of Appeal 4th Circuit at Large Judge, Public Service Commissioner District 3, Municipal and Traffic Court Division D Judge, Municipal and Traffic Court Division E Judge, and 1st City Court Clerk.

You can see your exact ballot using the Geaux Vote app or on the Louisiana Secretary of State’s voting portal.

Many ballots will include State Senator 5th Senatorial District, a special election with no runoff, to fill the position vacated by 23-year veteran Karen Carter Peterson.

Some will include Member of School Board District 1, Delachaise Security and Improvement District Proposition, Huntsville Security and Neighborhood Improvement District Proposition, and/or Lake Oaks Subdivision Improvement District Proposition.

One of the eight Louisiana constitutional amendments, Constitutional Amendment 7 (slavery), on the ballot posits adding language to Article I, Section 3 (Right to Dignity) that would eliminate involuntary servitude as punishment for crime. The Louisiana constitution currently reads, “Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited, except in the latter case as punishment for crime.” Amendment 7, if passed, would delete the exception and prohibit it altogether.

This matters because many Louisianians are in correctional facilities, where they are working constantly for little or no pay. According to Prison Policy, Louisiana incarcerates more of its citizens than any other democracy. According to the Louisiana ACLU, prisoners earn between $0.02 and $0.40 per hour. They are working some of the same jobs as people outside of prison, for a fraction of the pay. At Louisiana State Penitentiary, better known as Angola, prisoners work land on a former plantation, with the same crops as during slavery, for only two cents an hour. The crops’ yield is often sold to big companies, at a normal rate.

Who’s Running?

For the U.S. Senate seat 13 candidates are on the ballot including Beryl A. Billiot (No Party), Gary Chambers Jr., (D), Devin Lance Graham (R), “Xan” John, (O), John Kennedy (R – incumbent), W. Thomas La Fontaine Olson (No Party), Bradley McMorris (I), MV “Vinny” Mendoza (D), “Luke” Mixon (D), Salvador P. Rodriguez (D), Aaron C. Sigler (L), Syrita Steib (D), and Thoman Wenn (Other).

Katie Darling (D) and Howard Kearney (L) are vying to unseat Steve Scalise (R) for U.S. Representative 1st Congressional District. And, for U.S. Representative 2nd Congressional District, Troy A. Carter (Democrat – incumbent) is up against “Dan” Lux (R).

For the Court of Appeal 4th Circuit at Large Judge seat, the choices are “Joseph” Cao (R), Karen Herman (D), and Marie Williams (D).

Four other democrats are attempting to unseat Public Service Commissioner District 3 incumbent
Lambert Boissiere III (D) including Willie Jones, Davante Lewis, Gregory Manning, and Jesse T. Thompson.

Mandie Landry (D) and Royce Duplessis (D) are fighting to fill the position vacated by 23-year veteran Karen Carter Peterson for State Senator 5th Senatorial District, a special election with no runoff.

Derek Russ (D) is attempting to unseat Mark J. Shea (D) for Municipal and Traffic Court Division D Judge. For Municipal and Traffic Court Division E Judge, it’s between Geoffrey L. Gates (D) and Bobbie Smith (D).

For 1st City Court Clerk, Donna Glapion (D) is attempting to take over for Austin Badon (D). And Patrice Sentino (D) is vying for Leila J. Eames‘ (D) seat as a Member of School Board District 1.

The City Of NOLA
The City Of NOLA
The City Of NOLA

What Louisiana constitutional amendments are on the ballot?

  • Constitutional Amendment No. 1 (ACT 130, 2021 – HB 154) – Modifies the maximum amount of monies in certain state funds that may be invested in equities.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 2 (ACT 172, 2022 – HB 599) – Expands property tax exemptions for homestead exemption property for veterans with disabilities.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 3 (ACT 156, 2021 – HB 315) – Allows classified civil service employees to support election of family members to public office.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 4 (ACT 155, 2021 – HB 59) – Authorizes a political subdivision to waive charges for water under certain circumstances.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 5 (ACT 133, 2021 – SB 154) – Provides relative to property tax millage rate adjustments and maximum authorized millage rates.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 6 (ACT 129, 2021 – HB 143) – Limits the increase in assessed value of certain property following reappraisal in Orleans Parish.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 7 (ACT 246, 2022 – HB 298) – Provides relative to the prohibition of involuntary servitude and administration of criminal justice.
  • Constitutional Amendment No. 8 (ACT 171, 2022 – HB 395) – Removes requirement of annual certification of income for certain eligible disabled homeowners.

What’s the parishwide amendment?

Parishwide Home Rule Charter Amendment (Art. IV, Sec. 4-106) – Requires New Orleans City Council approval of any person appointed by the Mayor of Chief Administrative Officer to head any office, unit, department, commission, or board created or recognized in the Home Rule Charter or otherwise established pursuant to the Home Rule Charter.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in New Orleans?

October 11 is the deadline to register by mail or in-person. In-person registration can be done at the Registrar of Voters, any Office of Motor Vehicles, WIC, SNAP, Medicaid, Armed Forces, Department of Children and Family Services offices, or at any place serving people with disabilities.

The online deadline to register is October 18.

The City Of NOLA
The City Of NOLA
The City Of NOLA

Can I vote early?

Yes! Early voting takes place October 25 to November 1 (except Sunday October 26) from 8:30 am to 6 pm.

Can I vote by mail?

Yes, but only under certain circumstances such as hospitalization, being over 65 years old, residing in an inpatient mental health care facility, and military deployment. The deadline to register for absentee/mail voting is November 4 at 4:30 pm and those absentee/mail ballots must be received no later November 7 at 4:30 pm. For voters who are in the military, overseas, or hospitalized, the deadline to return mail ballots is November 8 at 8 pm. Absentee ballots can be tracked online at the voter portal.

How to find your polling place:

Use the Geaux Vote app or visit the Louisiana Secretary of State’s voting portal to find your polling place. Polls are open from 6 am till 8 pm.

How to become an election worker:

Being an election worker is an easy way to make money and serve the community. The application process and training are easy too. There are three types of election workers: election day, early voting, and absentee. Each has its own requirements and pay, and you must be able to work the full shift without leaving. Visit the Louisiana Secretary of State’s voting portal to learn how to apply to be a Louisiana poll worker.

How to contact someone for help:

Call 1-800-883-2805.

Multi-generational New Orleans native Megan Braden-Perry was previously a staff reporter for The Times-Picayune and Gambit and has also written for Essence, Jezebel, NY Daily News, andThe New Orleans Advocate. Megan’s best friend Jenny says Megan will “talk to the Devil for a sandwich,” and that’s to date the most accurate biographical detail. Follow her on Twitter.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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