New Orleans voters trickled into polling places Saturday to cast their ballots in several races, including two City Council seats and a hotly contested campaign for Orleans Parish sheriff. Polls in the city’s 366 precincts closed at 8 p.m.
As expected, turnout appeared to be low, with poll workers outnumbering voters at some precincts in late afternoon.
Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Tom Schedler, said things appeared to be running smoothly and she had not received reports of any problems. Voters casting ballots at Warren Easton Charter High School were in and out within a matter of minutes.
Javon Sylvester, a 36-year-old truck driver, said he couldn’t miss the opportunity to cast a ballot for Jason Williams, who is opposing District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell in the race for an at-large council seat.
Sylvester said he supported challenger Charles Foti in the sheriff’s race, citing what he called incumbent Marlin Gusman’s failure to improve conditions at Orleans Parish Prison during his first two terms. A poll released this week, however, showed Gusman holding a lead of some 30 percentage points in his attempt to win a third four-year term.
At a polling place at the Criminal District Courthouse at Tulane and Broad, poll workers said activity had slowed to a crawl.
Tyaler Parker, who turned 18 in August, was casting a ballot for the first time and described the experience as empowering.
Before voting, she said, she researched the candidates in each of the races, read the newspaper and watched television news. “It was real easy,” she said. “I think everybody needs to vote.”
Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell on Friday predicted 30 percent of voters would make it to the polls Saturday. In the Feb. 1 primary, which included a high-profile mayor’s election, only 35 percent of the city’s 243,000 registered voters turned out.
Other matters on the ballot Saturday included a citywide race for coroner, in which physicians Dwight McKenna and Jeffrey Rouse are seeking to succeed the retiring Frank Minyard, and what is expected to be a close contest for the District C council seat between current at-large Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson and former Civil Court Judge Nadine Ramsey.
Also on the ballot are citywide referendums on renewing the property tax millage for the Audubon Commission and on a new property tax break for disabled veterans and a vote on renewing a property fee in the Lake Willow neighborhood.
While many voters decided to stay home Saturday, Ernest Jack said he never passes up an election. “If you don’t vote,” he said moments after exercising his right, “you’ll never be heard.”