Early voting in what could be the lowest election turnout in the past three decades begins Friday morning.
All 64 parishes will be voting on a new state treasurer, a race that has attracted little attention despite being the state’s chief money manager and one of seven state government officials elected statewide.
Orleans Parish has high profile municipal races including mayor and city council.
Eight parishes have runoffs for judges, councilmen or other local offices. East Baton Rouge Parish is electing a city court judge. St. Tammany Parish has a runoff for a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Thirty-two parishes have local tax millage propositions in addition to the treasurer’s special election on their ballots.
“So, what we have are 56 of 64 parishes don’t have races that you would anticipate would attract voters,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler told The Advocate Thursday.
He calculates that 300,000 to 350,000 of the state’s 2.97 million voters will participate in the Nov. 18 election. That’s about 10 to 12 percent – down from the 401,499 voters, 14 percent, who cast ballots in the Oct. 14 primary election, which itself had the lowest turnout in 30 years, he said.
“I don’t relish giving these Debbie downer predictions, but I don’t see any enthusiasm,” Schedler said.
Voters can cast ballots early from Friday through Nov. 11, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except on Sunday and Friday, Nov. 10, Veteran's Day, which is a state holiday. Parish registrar of voters’ offices and other locations are available to accept ballots.
Schedler's office has a complete list of early voting sites at https://voterportal.sos.la.gov/EarlyVoting or through its smartphone app, GeauxVote Mobile.
Usually early voting runs Saturday to Saturday. But the Louisiana Legislature bumped up opening day to Friday to accommodate the Veteran’s Day holiday.
Schedler says voters like consistency in election schedules. “I’m already anticipating a weak voter turnout and this certainly doesn’t help,” Schedler said.
John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge pollster who closely watches voting patterns, said the change in the early voting schedule could frustrate some voters. Usually most early voters go on the first and last days early voting is allowed.
A total of 96,742 voters cast ballots early in the October primary and they accounted for 24 percent of the total votes.
Couvillon also predicts a low turnout, which will give New Orleans votes more impact on the state treasurer’s race.
New Orleans lawyer Derrick Edwards, a Democrat, and former Covington Rep. John Schroder, a Republican, were the top two vote getters in the October primary. Though Edwards led the field with 125,503 votes, 67 percent of those voting backed a Republican.
Edwards and Schroder are competing to fill out the remaining two years of long-time treasurer John N. Kennedy’s term. He has moved to the U.S. Senate.
The highest profile local race is for mayor of New Orleans. Both candidates are Democrats, City Council member Latoya Cantrell and former municipal court Judge Desiree Charbonnet. The winner would be the first female mayor in the city’s history.
Democratic incumbent Mayor Mitch Landrieu is term-limited.
Usually, Orleans Parish accounts for 8 percent to 10 percent of the votes cast in the state, Couvillon said. But in the Oct. 14 primary, mostly because so few voters participated, New Orleans accounted for 18 percent of the total vote statewide.
And that's with a relatively low turnout in New Orleans, where only 74,409 voters, about 32 percent of those registered, cast ballots. Almost 62 percent of those New Orleans votes went to Edwards.
“When you’re talking 10 to 11 percent turnout and the biggest turnout being in New Orleans, well, anything can happen,” said Lionel Rainey with the Schroder campaign, which was in north Louisiana and Natchitoches Thursday and will be on the North Shore Friday.
The state Democratic Party, which last week endorsed Edwards, is knocking on doors and making phone calls in support of their candidate, said Stephen Handwerk, the party’s executive director.
“With turnout numbers this low, it’s especially important to make direct connections with voters,” Handwerk said.