Voters across the New Orleans area headed to the polls Tuesday to decide on a full slate of races that would determine everything from the balance of power in Congress to who takes over the reins as district attorney in St. Tammany Parish.
Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.
Precinct workers in Orleans Parish described turnout as steady and said lines were minimal through midday.
“It was busy this morning and it will get busy again this afternoon,” said Loretta Beoh, commissioner of precinct 11, ward 13.
Beoh and fellow poll workers stationed at New Zion Baptist Church in Central City said the only snags they noticed were a handful of voters who showed up at the wrong polling place.
Shawnnetta Samuels, who voted at the church, said she was most enthusiastic to cast her ballot for Mary Landrieu, who is locked into a tough Senate race against Republican opponents Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness.
“I think she’s the best choice for New Orleans,” she said.
Her husband, Nolan Smallwood, waited outside, grousing about how a recent felony conviction had left him disenfranchised.
“It shouldn’t matter if you got a felony or not,” he said. “Our voice needs to be heard. There are a lot of brothers who get locked up and can’t vote. That’s messed up.”
Supporters of a wide array of candidates made last-minute appeals, congregating at a handful of crowded intersections and waving signs at passing motorists.
Some fans of Judge Frank Marullo, who is running for reelection in Criminal District Court Section D, staked out turf around Louisiana and St. Charles avenues. Matthew McLaren, a former prosecutor for Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, said he spent 9 months handling cases in Marullo’s section and was impressed by the judge’s work.
“He was fair to all my clients,” McLaren said, waving a Marullo sign.
He said that along with casting a vote for Marullo, he would also be voting for a amendment to the state constitution that would abolish a law that sets a mandatory retirement for judges at 70.
The law would likely prevent Marullo, who is 74, for taking the bench even if he was to win the election.
On the Northshore, poll workers said crowds were dense.
Slidell area voters were lined up at North Shore Square mall at 6 a.m. Tuesday where three precincts cast ballots, according to poll workers who were dealing with a steady stream of voter at mid-morning.
Runsdell Hebert, whose daughter is a commissioner, said he had been by twice and had never seen the polling place so busy. At least three people were always in line and sometimes as many as six. Normally, he said, the workers are sitting and waiting for voters to show up. But Tuesday, “They haven’t had time to eat or take a break,” he said.
Russell G. Crowe Sr., captain for Precinct 915, which covers the Airport Road area near Slidell, said that as of 9:50 a.m., 154 of the eligible 1,522 voters had cast ballots.
Larger turnout is typical for federal elections, he said, but added that big local elections — the 22nd Judicial District Attorney’s race and a judgeship — also seem to have brought people out.
Signs posted at the polling place reminded voters that they have a three minute limit, something poll workers said that they are required to post in federal elections. Sample ballots with the lengthy list of constitutional amendments were posted in several spots.
Veronica Culberson, who was studying the list of amendments as she stopped on her way to work, said she had not reviewed them before and, as a healthcare worker and someone with a chronic illness, she was particularly interested in health care issues.
But she was also still mulling over the options in the local DA race. “You want to be sure you pick the right person,” she said.
Meg Casper, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Tom Schedler, said her office had received few complaints Tuesday morning. She said a few polling places had opened late, but those issues had been resolved.
For information about polling locations, voters can visit the website of the Secretary of the State.
A sample ballot is also available on the site.