Louisiana election turnout could be low for Nov. 4 statewide balloting based on historical data, Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Tuesday.

Schedler said past history in recent federal elections indicates a potential 45 to 50 percent voter participation rate.

“I hope I’m wrong,” Schedler said. “This election should draw 70 percent because of the magnitude of the election.”

Schedler said Louisiana voter turnout should be “like a presidential election. It’s that important.”

Schedler said he will have a better idea of voter interest at the end of the early voting period. Early voting started Tuesday and continues through Oct. 28. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, excluding Sunday.

Voter registration has ended to be eligible to vote Nov. 4. New statistics are not out yet to determine the effect of voter registration drives by Democrats and Republicans.

Earlier this month, state voter registration stood at 2.9 million.

Top of the ballot is the U.S. Senate race, where veteran Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing a tough re-election battle against a strong Republican challenge. U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy is polling second to Landrieu, followed by GOP tea party favorite and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness.

The national media is closely watching the race — one of the GOP’s targeted Senate elections as the party tries to take control of the Senate.

Schedler said the barrage of television ads accompanying the campaign could be a voter turnoff. “They just stay home,” he said.

The Nov. 4 election is the largest Louisiana has had in a decade, Schedler said, looking at the magnitude of races and propositions on the ballot.

The ballot includes 4,405 candidates running for 2,415 offices, plus 14 proposed constitutional amendments and 108 local propositions.

“It’s a huge election,” Schedler said.

In prior nonpresidential election years, statewide voter turnout ranged from a low of 33 percent in 2006 when now-Gov. Bobby Jindal and others were running for Congress to 45.2 percent when Landrieu and Republican Suzy Terrell were on the ballot in 2002. The 2010 U.S. Senate election, which featured an unsuccessful challenge of Republican David Vitter by Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, attracted 44 percent voter participation.

In presidential election years — 2004, 2008 and 2012 — when congressional races also were on the ballot, turnout was higher, with two-thirds of the state’s voters participating.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the state capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/