The fewest number of voters, ever, have shown up during the first two days of early voting.
At least, fewer ballots have been cast since early voting was expanded to its present form more than a decade ago.
Early voting continues through Saturday, but the numbers from the first two days suggest that as few 13 percent and probably no more than 19 percent of the state’s 2.9 million voters will participate in the Oct. 14 statewide election, said John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge political pollster who has studied voter turnout over the years.
The half million voters who do cast ballots will decide who becomes the next state treasurer and how the state Constitution is amended.
Early voting for the Oct. 14 election begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Unlike last year’s presidential election, when lines to vote early snaked out the door and down the sidewalk, a casual observer wouldn’t suspect early voting is going on now, based on the crowds at polling locations, said Meg Casper Sunstrom, of the Secretary of State’s office.
“It’s definitely been slow,” Sunstrom told The Advocate Tuesday.
The state office collected about 17,898 early ballots from voters who physically went to various stations around the state. That compares to about 64,000 who voted during the first two days of early voting in the presidential election.
In the December 2015 gubernatorial runoff, about 40,600 votes were collected the first two days and about 28,000 in the 2014 primary for the U.S. Senate, Sunstrom said.
Part of the reason is that New Orleans has the only high profile races in the state, electing a new mayor, city council and a sheriff. In the handful of parishes with other races on the ballot, voters are choosing judges, school board members, Public Service Commissioners, and other offices that don’t attract much attention.
In the Baton Rouge area and down the bayous to Houma-Thibodaux, a sprawling district of the …
The bulk of the state’s ballots will have only the race for state treasurer and three constitutional amendments.
Orleans Parish, on its best days, accounts for about 13 percent of the total votes cast in Louisiana.
But the contests in New Orleans also are not drawing voters to the polls, Couvillon said.
Perhaps about 35 to 40 percent of the voters in New Orleans will vote in this election. That’s on par with the last open mayor’s race in 2010, but not enough to drive up participation numbers statewide.
Early voting has become pretty popular, but truth be told, I prefer to wait until Election D…
In February 2010, the last mayoral race without an incumbent running, Mitch Landrieu won a 60 percent majority of the 88,945 votes cast. But that total was about 32.7 percent of registered voters in Orleans Parish.
Voters are burned out after three years of intense and high profile elections, said Martin Johnson, an LSU professor who teaches political communications.
“You have a bunch of really important stuff on the Oct. 14 ballot,” Johnson said Tuesday. “But you also have an exhausted electorate and exhausted donors.”
The money just hasn’t been there for candidates, particularly the six running for state treasurer. The little known candidates require millions to buy the advertising necessary to build name recognition around the state.
The political races also have been drowned out by a drum beat of huge news stories – hurricanes, North Korea, and Las Vegas, said G. Pearson Cross, a political scientist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
“The president’s tweets are attention-grabbing. Who is going to be treasurer is not very compelling by comparison. It’s boring,” Cross said.
Voting in person during early voting is down 52 percent in the first two days. But what is different is the number of mail-in absentee ballots are up. Couvillon said part of the reason is that mail-in ballots accumulate and are dumped into the calculations on the first day of early voting.
That and, as Sunstrom explains, local registrars sent the ballots out 45 days early. Federal law requires that much lead time for congressional, presidential and other races for federal office. State law doesn’t have that deadline for races in Louisiana.
Despite the dismal numbers, Couvillon speculates that early votes will end up accounting for about 31 percent of the total turnout, not because interest is driving people to the polls. Rather he predicts that so few people will cast ballots on Election Day, those who participated in this early phase will comprise a higher percentage of total votes.
Recent polls consistently show about a third of the electorate remains undecided with only 11 days left.
“In an election cycle like this, the undecided is not likely to vote,” Couvillon said.