Today is not Election Day, at least with capital letters. That will be Dec. 6, when the runoffs for U.S. Senate and other offices around the state are held.
Today, however, is the start of early voting. That means that it is already Election Day for the thousands of voters who opt to get ahead and cast ballots with their registrar of voters offices in the 64 parishes.
In the Nov. 4 primary election, in which most contests were decided, more than 245,000 cast early ballots, 16 percent of the total. That’s more than in the 2010 congressional elections but less than the giant 2012 presidential turnout.
Early voting continues through Saturday, Nov. 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, excluding Sunday — but also excluding Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after turkey day.
The state’s top elections official, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, has emphasized the holiday interruptions, because more people may want to vote early. That number has been growing every year, and, in particular, this year there is a great deal of interest in the Senate election.
“This is always a busy time of year with families traveling and time off of work, but it’s important not to forget about the Dec. 6 election, especially with the congressional runoffs, as well as many important local races,” Schedler said. “By casting your ballot early, you can vote on your own schedule when it’s most convenient.”
As Schedler noted, in many parts of the state, there are more races on the ballot than just the Senate race although the battle between incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican challenger Bill Cassidy is the marquee race this year.
Two of the state’s six districts in the U.S. House will elect a new congressman. The 6th District is based on the Baton Rouge metropolitan area but includes part of the bayou country; it is the seat vacated by Cassidy to run for the Senate. Republican Garret Graves and Democrat Edwin W. Edwards — yes, that Edwards — are on the ballot.
The 5th District is based on northeast Louisiana but sprawls down the river as far as part of the Florida parishes. Republican Ralph Abraham and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, a Democrat, are in that runoff.
Elsewhere, there is a runoff for mayor of Shreveport, but there also are runoffs in some seats on school boards in several parishes, including Jefferson, Lafayette and East Baton Rouge. In each case, as well as in Orleans Parish, there are significant local tax elections or parish charter amendments on the ballots.
We encourage early voting as that lessens the lines on Election Day itself, but we also encourage voters to be aware of tax elections or other propositions that also may be on the ballot and read up ahead of time to ensure that their votes are cast in an informed fashion.