Voter registration deadline is today for presidential primary _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --Katie Bell, 23, changes her voter registration from Ouachita Parish to East Baton Rouge Parish at the Registrar of Voters Office in City Hall Tuesday as clerk Pat Fugler assists. Bell said she will be voting for the first time in the upcoming elections. The deadline for registering or changing party affiliation is Wednesday at 4:30pm. Voters can do that at City Hall, the Coursey and Baker locations as well as online.

Louisiana voters who want to take part in the March 5 presidential primaries have through Wednesday to decide whether they will do so as Republicans or Democrats.

The presidential preference primary is a rare closed election in Louisiana in which only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP primary and only registered Democrats will cast ballots in the Democratic primary. It’s a departure from recent statewide elections here, including those held last fall, that haven’t been restricted by party.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler warned that the shift can create confusion for some voters.

“To avoid confusion, now is a good time to check out our website and our voter app to see what’s on the ballot as well as check your registration if you want to participate in the (presidential primary),” he said.

Louisiana residents can quickly register to vote or update their voter registration online at Registration and updates also can be made in person at local registrar of voters offices, Office of Motor Vehicles stations, public schools, colleges and libraries.

It remains to be seen how many candidates will be left on the ballot when Louisiana voters get their say among the potential nominees. This week’s Iowa caucus, followed by New Hampshire’s primary next week, likely will lead to a winnowing of candidates — particularly among those on the lower tiers on the Republican side.

Fourteen Republicans and 10 Democrats have submitted the necessary paperwork and paid filing fees to appear on the ballot, including the top names on the national scene, as well as some virtual unknowns. Among them: Republicans Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush, who all have begun organizing efforts in Louisiana.

State Sen. Conrad Appel, of Metairie, and state Rep. Nancy Landry, of Lafayette, are among the prominent names on Bush’s list of supporters.

Former state Rep. Woody Jenkins is on Team Trump.

State Sen. Bodi White, of Central, has been tapped to lead Rubio’s Louisiana effort.

Meanwhile, Cruz, Rubio, Carson and Bush all have been among the candidates who have held campaign events here and Trump’s campaign has promised that Louisiana’s coming up on his list of appearances, though nothing has been finalized.

“Several prominent Republicans — elected leaders and activists — have picked different candidates and I think it speaks to the strength of our field of candidates,” Louisiana GOP spokesman Jason Doré said. “We would be in a good situation with any of them.”

He said interest in the race has been high in the state.

“You have so many great candidates generating excitement,” he said.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her chief Democratic rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, have stumped in Louisiana.

“Every American has a stake in this year’s presidential election, and every Democrat has a voice in selecting our party’s nominee,” said Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

In the week leading up to Louisiana’s presidential primary election day, several Southern states will take part in what’s being called the “SEC Primary” for the college athletic conference that covers the region.

Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are all slated to take part in that March 1 cluster.

Mississippi will have its primary the following week — a few days after Louisiana’s.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of Louisiana state government and politics, follow our Politics blog at