early voting

Early voting at the Louisiana State Archives Bldg. is brisk. (Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG)

Lines snaked through the galleries of the State Archives building and onto the stairs as Louisiana voters Tuesday began the week-long process of casting their ballots early for the Nov. 8 election.

Despite the length of line, Brian Mack, of Baton Rouge, said he was surprised that the process took about 20 minutes. “I was prepared to wait, but it went briskly,” he said, sporting a Blue Dog sticker being handed out to voters after their ballots cast.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler said the early voting lines were about the same length as in 2012, the last time the nation elected a president. Historically, about 20 percent of all ballots are cast during early voting. He won't know for sure how many people cast ballots Tuesday until sometime around midnight when all the offices check in. But reports from around the state indicate a healthy number showed up. 

“We’ve been busy all day. It hasn’t let up, not once,” said St. Landry Parish Registrar of Voters Cheryl Milburn near the end of the day. She said the numbers, which won’t be tallied until later in Tuesday night, are on par with the 2012 early voting.

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With a 67.9 percent of the state’s registered voters casting ballots, the November 2012 presidential election was the highest turnout in Louisiana history after the 1991 gubernatorial election between David Duke and Edwin W. Edwards.

“Just on a visual, and with reports across the state, we are pretty much where we were in 2012, if it stays up,” Schedler said. “This is a hard one to predict because there are so many moving parts. You talk to some people and they’re not voting at all, they’re frustrated but this kind of renews my spirit that we could have a high voter turnout.”

Elections officials around the country had voiced concerns that voter turnout would be depressed because of the unpopularity of both Democratic and Republican candidates and GOP nominee Donald Trump’s charges of a “rigged election.”

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Oct. 19 that her office would deploying poll watchers to about half the 50 states to ensure elections are conducted fairly.

Under a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the Justice Department must inform a state’s top elections official when sending in monitors. Schedler said federal authorities have not approached him.

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The only place in Louisiana where federal poll watchers can go without prior permission is St. Landry Parish. As a result of settlement of a lawsuit under the Voting Rights Act, St. Landry is one of four jurisdictions in the country with that status.

Earlier, Louisiana was one of three states the Russian government had sought to send poll monitors. Schedler refused after consulting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FBI.

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Early voting is taking place in all 64 parishes at Registrar of Voters’ Offices. In some of the large urban areas, like East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, and Orleans parishes, multiple locations have been opened to accommodate votes prior to the Nov. 8 election day. Early voting began Tuesday and will continue for a week, except Sunday, until next Tuesday, Nov. 1. The hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. for each day of early voting.

In addition to electing a president, Louisiana also is voting on a U.S. Senate seat, all six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a member of the utility regulating Public Service Commission, a Louisiana Supreme Court justice, four appellate circuit court justices, and six constitutional amendments as well as dozens of local offices, including mayor-president of East Baton Rouge and most of the Metro Council.

Louisiana has 3 million voters – the most ever – registered to participate in this election. Everyone who votes receives a sticker of George Rodrigue’s “Blue Dog.”

 


Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.