Turn out for early voting, which ends Tuesday at 6 p.m., is far ahead of the 2010 midterms but not likely to surpass the numbers casting ballots early in the 2012 presidential election, Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Monday.
More Democrats than Republicans and other party/no party — combined — have voted early, so far, for the Nov. 4 election, he said. Early voters followed the state’s racial makeup with about two-thirds of the early voters white and about 31 percent black. About 14,000 more women have voted early.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu faces a tough reelection against Republicans U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, and Rob Maness, of Madisonville. Democrats have put a lot of effort into getting out their vote in hopes that the numbers will overcome Louisiana’s recent lean to the GOP. Republicans have responded with efforts of their own.
Through Saturday, more of the voters came from Orleans and East Baton Rouge parishes — 14,223 and 13,549 respectively — leading turnout in all 64 parishes. The two parishes together cast about 17 percent of the total vote in 2012, of which almost two-thirds of those ballots went Democratic. Despite the boost from the two parishes, President Barack Obama lost the state.
Early voting began Oct. 21 and ends Tuesday. If no candidate wins a majority on the Nov. 4 election day, the top vote-getters will face each other in a Dec. 6 runoff, which is on a Saturday.
Schedler told the Press Club of Baton Rouge that he anticipates a 45 percent to 50 percent voter turnout in the election where the U.S. Senate race is on the statewide ballot. He said past federal elections history as well as the latest early voting numbers come into play in the projection. In 2012, when early voting was heavy, turnout hit 69 percent, he said.
Going into the final two days, Schedler said about 152,000 voters had cast ballots at a pace of about 30,500 a day, Schedler said.
Schedler criticized an Americans for Prosperity mailing aimed at improving voter turnout. “It goes a little bit too far,” he said.
AFP is taking “a different approach” to drive election turnout. Phillip Joffrion, Louisiana director for Americans for Prosperity, politically conservative group, said in an interview later Monday: “When people know their voting history is public, knowing that is a method to encourage people actually to get out and participate,”
The AFP’s postcards indicate whether an individual voted in 2010 and 2012 federal elections with an empty box which will be filled in after the Nov. 4 balloting. The group has spent heavily in efforts to beat Landrieu. “We intend to mail you an updated chart when we have that information. We will leave the box blank if you do not vote,” the post card states.
Joffrion declined to reveal how many Louisiana households received the postcard or the demographics of the households selected.
Schedler said he will add the voting records issue to his list of subjects to discuss with legislators for potential election changes next year.
“I want to see if there’s something to do about this when you put it on a post card,” Schedler said. He said a solution could be to require personal voter information to be put in an envelope for mailing.
“It is the people’s right to register to vote and ... right not to vote,” he said.
Schedler said 85 percent of Louisiana’s eligible voters are registered but he estimated that about 70 percent actually vote at one time or the other.
He said the ballot will be challenging to voters this time around.
“It’s a very lengthy ballot. We are anticipating some delays in line,” said Schedler. “The size of this ballot is ridiculous quite frankly.”
Adding to the ballot length are 14 proposed constitutional amendments, he said. He said it may be time to look at restricting the number of amendments that can be proposed.
Schedler said more than 130 candidates have withdrawn, including one who opted out Monday. Most of the withdrawn candidates names will remain on the ballot because it had to go out 45 days in advance of the election because of military voting, he said. So, voters need to be aware of who is in and out of the various races, he said.
“Every parish will have one withdrawn candidate - Mr. (Raymond) Brown in the (U.S.) Senate race,” said Schedler.
Schedler also reminded that the polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the Nov. 4 election, then revert back to the regular Louisiana voting hours of 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. for any December balloting.