About 20 percent more voters have cast their ballots early, so far, when compared to the statewide elections four years ago, according to Secretary of State Tom Schedler.

Despite the number of early votes, Schedler predicts a low turnout for the Oct. 22 statewide election.

Early voting in the election began Saturday and continues through Saturday.

The Secretary of State’s Office counted 83,471 cast during “early voting” through Wednesday night, the latest tally available Thursday. After the fourth day of voting in 2007, the last statewide election, 62,457 voters had cast ballots, according to Angie Bouy, director of elections in the Secretary of State’s Office.

Sarah Cole, of the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar of Voter’s Office, said Thursday a steady flow of early voters have been casting ballots this week at the State Archives Building on Essen Lane near Interstate 12.

One of those early voters Thursday was John Carnahan, of Baton Rouge. He said he had voted early before and found it more convenient than visiting the polls on Saturdays.

Early voting continues until Saturday at parish registrars’ offices as well as some satellite locations.

The locations will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Voters need to show identification to the registrars, then sign a book showing that they have voted. The voter is issued a card that is inserted to activate the touch-screen voting machine. After casting a ballot, the card is returned to a poll worker.

In the past, “early voting” numbers have been used to help calculate voter turnout. “But we’re far ahead of the early numbers from 2007,” Schedler said from his home parish of St. Tammany, where the secretary of state since November 2010 was casting his own early vote.

Schedler faces Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker, of Terrytown, in the secretary of state contest. Both are Republicans.

His office’s elections officials are estimating that the turnout for this statewide balloting will be about 35 percent to 40 percent of the Louisiana’s 2.84 million registered voters, Schedler said.

In 2007, when Gov. Bobby Jindal won in the primary against three well-financed opponents, 47 percent of the state’s then 2.82 million registered voters went to the polls, according the voting reports.

“It’s a very strange statewide election,” Schedler said.

The race for lieutenant governor, which pits incumbent Jay Dardenne against Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, Schedler said, is attracting more attention than the governor’s contest. Jindal faces nine opponents, all of whom have raised little money and have little name recognition.

Schedler said he expects local races to drive voter turnout for the statewide elections rather than the other way as is the usual case.

For instance, competitive races for local offices in East Baton Rouge, Caddo and Rapides parishes should increase voting for statewide offices in those locales, he said.