Nearly 1 million vote early in Louisiana, breaking records
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana’s early voting period for the presidential and congressional elections shattered records as it ended, with nearly one-third of the state’s voters casting their ballots in advance of Election Day, according to data released Wednesday.
Nearly 818,000 people waited in lines that often stretched for blocks over the 10-day early voting period that ended Tuesday night, and another 146,000 have voted absentee by mail, according to Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office, which oversees elections.
Those 964,000 people represent about 32% of the state’s 3 million registered voters — and that’s well above the 531,000 people who cast ballots in the early voting period for the 2016 presidential race. By comparison, only 386,000 voted early for last year’s hotly contested governor’s race and other statewide elections.
“A pandemic or two hurricanes did not prevent nearly 1 million Louisianians from exercising their right to vote during early voting,” Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said in a statement. “Louisiana voters are energized and eager to make their voices heard in critical elections from the presidency down to local races. It is my strong desire to see 2020 set the record for Louisiana’s highest turnout.”
Driving turnout appears to be strong interest in the presidential race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. Also on the ballot is a U.S. Senate race in which GOP incumbent Bill Cassidy is seeking a second term against 14 opponents, as well as six U.S. House competitions featuring five incumbents running for reelection and one open seat because Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham of Richland Parish is heading home from Washington.
Voters also were sifting through seven constitutional amendments, a question of whether they want to legalize sports betting in their parish and long lists of local races.
Pollster John Couvillon analyzes voting data for JMC Analytics and said each day of Louisiana’s early voting period broke turnout records. Based on early voting, Ardoin is projecting total turnout for the election could reach up to 71%, well above the 68% percent Louisiana saw when Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton four years ago.
Democrats voted early in greater numbers than Republicans, and both voted in greater proportions to their registration than independent voters and those registered with other parties, according to the secretary of state’s office data.
Forty-four percent of the early vote announced Wednesday — or 425,000 ballots cast — came from Democrats, who make up 41% of registered voters. Republicans represented 37% of the early voters — 361,000 ballots cast — and make up 33% of Louisiana’s voter registration.
Still, Democrats often vote for Republicans in ruby-red Louisiana, particularly in federal races, and Trump was expected to easily win the state.
Though in-person early voting has wrapped up, absentee ballots will be accepted until Monday for most people using the mail-in option and through Election Day for military and overseas voters mailing in their ballots.
In any race where no candidate tops 50% of the vote, the leading two vote-getters will face each other in a Dec. 5 runoff. That doesn’t apply for the presidential contest.
Early voting was three days longer for this election than it traditionally is in Louisiana.
A federal judge required Ardoin to expand Louisiana’s early voting period for the election from the usual seven days to 10 days and add an hour of voting time each day because of the coronavirus outbreak. The judge also ordered an expansion of mail-in voting.