The number of votes cast in the 2020 presidential election in Louisiana, so far, have shattered records for early and mail-in voting, with the total early votes cast already nearing half of the total number of all ballots cast for entirety of the 2016 election. 

Louisiana will likely be on the cusp of 1 million votes cast before election day, once all the mail-in ballots are tallied. 

Between the 10-day early voting period that ended Tuesday night and absentee mail ballots, which are accepted through Monday, Louisiana has tallied nearly 964,000 votes, an 81.3% increase from the early vote in the 2016 presidential election. The 963,871 who have voted already in the Nov. 3 presidential election represents 31.7% of registered voters. 

"A pandemic or two hurricanes did not prevent nearly one million Louisianans from exercising their right to vote during early voting,” Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said Wednesday in a statement. “Louisiana voters are energized and eager to make their voices heard in critical elections from the presidency down to local races. It is my strong desire to see 2020 set the record for Louisiana’s highest turnout.”

The record-setting early vote has also tilted more toward Democrats than it did in 2016.

According to an analysis by John Couvillon, a pollster who tracks early voting statistics, the racial composition leaned more toward Black voters in 2020, with 65% of the votes coming from White voters and 30% coming from Black voters. That’s compared to a 70%-27% split in 2016. The partisan split this year was 44% Democratic and 37% Republicans, compared to a 44%-39% split in 2016. While Louisiana is a reliably Republican state, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 244,000. 

East Baton Rouge and Orleans Parishes, Democratic strongholds where about 50,000 voted early or by mail in each in 2016, could top 100,000 once all the mail ballots are tallied this time.

Ardoin’s office said 53,134 mail-in ballots are still outstanding, when subtracting the people who requested a mail-in ballot but opted to vote early in person.

The early voting period was extended from 7 to 10 days this year because of the pandemic, and mail-in ballots surged in popularity, especially among those 65 and older, who are always allowed to vote by mail.

“It was a perfect storm of events,” Couvillon said. “You also had a lot more people wanting to vote by mail than have ever done so before.”

Couvillon said Democrats didn’t have their traditional surge at the end of the early voting period. Still, Democrats turned out in significant numbers in the first days of the period.

In all, Couvillon expects turnout in the 2020 presidential election to top 2.2 million, up from about 2 million in 2016.

That assumes many of the voters who cast their ballot early would have otherwise done so on election day. In other words, not all of the increase in early vote this year represents a surge in the total expected turnout in the election. Some of the uptick this year may also be attributed to the three additional days voters could cast ballots early. 

Atop the ticket is the presidential contest between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, and Louisiana is expected to cast its electoral votes for Trump. Trump carried Louisiana in 2016 by 20 points against Hillary Clinton. 

In addition, all of Louisiana's congressmen, and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, are up for re-election this year. 

Cassidy's main challenger is Adrian Perkins, the Democratic mayor of Shreveport, who has amassed most of the state and national party's support. 

But Cassidy, with a funding advantage, started advertising on television in September, almost a full month before Perkins. Perkins launched his first spot Oct. 7, nine days before early voting began. Cassidy is favored in the race. If he tops 50% in the Nov. 3 election, he wins outright. If he falls short, the top two vote-getters advance to a December runoff election. 

Voters are also deciding on seven constitutional amendments and a local option proposition for each parish to decide if sports betting would be allowed in their parish. In Baton Rouge, they'll choose between seven candidates for mayor as Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome defends her seat. 

The surge in early voting was experienced across the state.

In East Baton Rouge, early voting doubled to 98,126 compared to the 2016 presidential election, and the early voting totals have already accounted for half the total vote in 2016. That included a nearly tripling of mail ballots, to 17,000.

In Orleans, early voting shot up by 91%, with mail ballots nearly doubling from 2016. Jefferson Parish saw 70,664 early voters – a 95% increase from 2016. Lafayette had 47,799 early voters, a 150% increase.

Almost every day of the 2020 early vote set a record for most votes cast in a single early voting day in Louisiana history. Nine of the 10 biggest days for early voting in history came in the 2020 early voting period, according to Ardoin's office. Widespread early voting was first allowed in Louisiana in 2008 and it has consistently gained popularity since. 

Louisiana has several changes to the election this year because of the pandemic. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a plan crafted by Ardoin, a Republican, in consultation with GOP legislators, that would have allowed almost no additional people to cast votes by mail because of concerns over the virus.

But a federal judge sided with Edwards and ordered Ardoin to implement the same protocols as the summer elections. That includes giving several categories of voters – including those with underlying health conditions, those subject to a quarantine order and those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms--to get a mail-in ballot. It also expanded the early voting period from 7 to 10 days.

So far, relatively few people – 3,490 of 146,000 – have voted by mail through the COVID reasons. About 122,000 voted by mail through the program that allows anyone 65 or older to vote by mail, which is already in place.

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