Louisiana voters go to the polls Saturday to elect state government’s leadership for the next four years as well as a raft of local officials from sheriffs to assessors to parish presidents and the like.
Also on the ballot are five proposed constitutional amendments, including one aimed at directing dollars to support the state’s free college tuition program and continuing a tobacco tax.
Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. for the election where the governor’s race tops the ballot.
With many uncontested races, football games and good weather, Secretary of State Tom Schedler said state elections officials are projecting that at least 35 percent of the state’s 2.8 million voters will participate.
Early voting numbers were high.
“I hope it doesn’t go below 35 percent. I don’t think it will. By the same token I don’t see it breaking 40 (percent) either,” said Schedler.
Schedler said voter turnout will be driven largely by local races, an occasional spirited legislative contest and state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education race.
Seven BESE seats are on the statewide ballot, including two in the Baton Rouge area.
District 6 incumbent Chas Roemer, of Baton Rouge, is being challenged by former Ascension Parish Superintendent Donald Songy, of Prairieville, and recently retired teacher Beth Meyers, of Denham Springs.
In District 8 four candidates hope to succeed Linda Johnson of Plaquemine, who did not seek re-election.
They are Domoine Rutledge, of Baton Rouge, general counsel for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system; Carolyn Hill, of Baton Rouge, a certified social worker; Russell Armstrong, of Baton Rouge, an official of the state Department of Education and Jim Guillory, of Plaucheville, a retired businessman.
The governor’s race tops the ballot but there’s no major challenger to Gov. Bobby Jindal’s re-election bid.
There are races for five of seven statewide elected offices.
State Treasurer John Kennedy and Attorney General Buddy Caldwell have no opponents and got free rides to another term.
The lieutenant governor and secretary of state races have generated the most statewide attention.
Incumbent Jay Dardenne and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser face off in the lieutenant governor’s race and Schedler and House Speaker Jim Tucker vie for the secretary of state’s job. All four candidates are Republicans.
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain face little known opponents who have not mounted statewide campaigns.
In the legislative arena, Republicans are trying to increase majorities in the state House and Senate — achieved near the end of the current term..
There will be legislative contests in 19 out of 39 state Senate districts and 62 out of 105 state House districts.
There are no elections in 20 Senate districts and 43 House districts because only one candidate signed up to run or because of candidate withdrawals.
Many legislative districts have changed as a result of the once every decade realignment based on population shifts since the last U.S. Census. In some instances, whole new districts have been created — including several in the Baton Rouge area.
Schedler recommended that voters go to http://www.geauxvote.com to check where they vote as well as see a copy of the ballot for their area.
“Because of redistricting some precincts may have changed,” Schedler said.
Voter information is also accessible via a mobile application, which will also help people find their voting location.
On Friday, Jindal made a swing through his headquarters in downtown Baton Rouge.
Packed into a small, windowless room, campaign volunteers listened to Jindal’s pep speech before returning to the phone lines.
The governor used football terminology to rev up his staff.
“We’ve got another yard to go. We have to work hard every single minute,” he said.
Nungesser made a fast seven city tour Friday — greeting people at various street corners from north to south Louisiana. Country music singer Sammy Kershaw traveled with him on the fast-paced campaign blitz. U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., joined him at four stops.