After months of commercials, robocalls and television debates, Louisiana voters will head to the polls Saturday to cast ballots in a raft of contests. Topping the list is the race for governor, but a hefty 1,069 government offices are up for grabs across the state, including six other statewide posts.
Voters also will decide the fate of four proposed constitutional amendments — two of them aimed at providing more money for the state’s transportation needs.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler is predicting that fewer than half the state’s registered voters will turn out. In early voting, less than 8 percent of the state’s 2.89 million registered voters cast ballots.
“No matter what your political views, it’s important to go vote on election day,” Schedler said Friday. “This year, there continues to be a large number of undecided voters, according to the polls, but there are lots of ways to get election information.”
Schedler’s projection is a bit higher than that of New Orleans Clerk of Criminal Court Arthur Morrell, who predicted a turnout of between 30 and 35 percent in the city. That would be better than the anemic 24 percent of Orleans Parish voters who cast ballots in the 2011 governor’s race, something Morrell credited to a more hotly contested race this year.
“This time, there is a lot of competition,” he said. “I’m hoping that brings out a lot of voters.”
At the top of the ballot, nine candidates are vying to replace two-term Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is stepping down because of term limits.
The four best-funded candidates are Republicans U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, as well as Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards.
Only the top two vote-getters will move on to a Nov. 21 runoff.
Edwards began Friday by working the room at Frank’s restaurant in Baton Rouge and then stayed to order a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and a cup of coffee. Afterward, he did an interview with a Lafayette radio station and a phone call with canvassing captains who are in charge of making sure his supporters get to the polls.
The other candidates largely stuck to their home turf.
Vitter and his wife Wendy held meetings with supporters in Metairie, Kenner, New Orleans and Ascension Parish and made calls to encourage residents to vote. He also was in a minor fender bender in Metairie while moving between meetings.
Angelle spent the day in Acadiana, making stops in Acadia, Vermilion and Lafayette parishes, where he visited courthouses and local businesses to shake hands and ask voters for their support.
Dardenne stayed in Baton Rouge. He attended the LSU 100 lunch, where the Stephenson Entrepreneurship Institute honored the 100 fastest-growing companies owned or led by former LSU students. The lieutenant governor also answered questions on his campaign’s Facebook page.
In addition to the gubernatorial contest, voters will cast ballots for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, commissioner of agriculture and commissioner of insurance.
Before Saturday, more than half of the Louisiana Senate (21 of 39) and a majority of the Louisiana House (53 of 105) had been re-elected after they failed to draw an opponent or challengers dropped out.
When the primary results are in, at least another nine senators and 29 representatives will have won election because they faced just a single opponent. Others could land in the Nov. 21 runoff if they fail to get more than 50 percent of the vote.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., and voters in a handful of precincts in New Orleans and more than two dozen in Jefferson Parish will have to head out to new locations to cast their ballots.
In Jefferson, the moves were driven by a lawsuit that alleged the old locations were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The New Orleans changes are largely because school buildings are no longer available or their owners requested the locations be moved.
A group of community organizers in New Orleans is offering voters rides if they need help getting to the polls.
Justice and Beyond, a group that organizes around a wide range of civil rights and economic issues in New Orleans, is offering the free rides to the polls. Voters should call (800) 239-7379 to schedule a ride.
Elections officials are encouraging voters to use the GeauxVote app to find their polling location as well as see what’s on the ballot. Voters are permitted to take sample ballots with them into voting booths. Morrell also said there are no restrictions against taking “selfies” while casting a ballot in Orleans Parish.
Officials remind voters to bring a photo ID to the polls, though Morrell said poll workers will do what they can to verify the identity of voters who do not have driver’s licenses.
“Please get out and vote; it’s important,” Morrell said. “If you don’t come out and vote, you can’t complain.”
Staff writer Jeff Adelson contributed to this story.