While much attention recently has been placed on next year’s gubernatorial campaign, voters will decide Saturday on the state official who will run that election.

The choice is between two relative newcomers to elective politics: Republican Kyle Ardoin, of Baton Rouge, and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, of Clinton.

Both were unexpected finalists in the shortened campaign that began when Secretary of State Tom Schedler resigned in May amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Both had made a single, unsuccessful foray into elective politics years ago. Neither were on anybody’s radar until the last 20 minutes candidates could sign up to run for the remaining year of Schedler’s term.

Collins-Greenup was studying for her bar exam when she decided to drive to Baton Rouge, pay the $900 fee and put her name on the ballot at 4:09 p.m. on the last day of qualifying.

A few minutes later, Ardoin signed up. As Schedler’s assistant in charge of the office’s day-to-day administration, Ardoin took over the post, promising he would be only a caretaker. He reversed himself, saying he didn't feel the other eight candidates had enough experience.

Baton Rouge voters on Saturday will be looking at tax increases. Jefferson Parish will be choosing School Board members, Slidell a new state legislator. Shreveport will elect a mayor. The only race in all of Louisiana’s 3,910 precincts is secretary of state. Whoever wins will have a step up when they must run next fall for a full four-year term.

The third-highest-ranked state executive, the secretary of state holds Louisiana’s official seal, registers new businesses, archives government papers and runs a few museums, as well as overseeing the state’s elections.

In addition to balloting for governor and the six other agency heads elected statewide, the secretary will put on the October 2019 election for all 144 members of the Louisiana Legislature. But before that vote, whoever is elected Saturday will replace all 10,000 of the state’s voting machines and train personnel how to use them.

Come March, the secretary will have to nail down the details of registering many of the felons who have completed their sentences and will be allowed to vote for the first time under a new law.

Ardoin and Collins-Greenup ended the November primary in a dead heat. Each received about 20 percent of the 1.4 million votes cast. Ardoin had 298,657 votes, with Collins-Greenup trailing by only 9,560 fewer ballots.

Collins-Greenup won both her native East Feliciana Parish and Ardoin’s East Baton Rouge Parish. But Ardoin won her home precinct and his.

In his “Keep Kyle” slogan, Ardoin is running as the incumbent, though he’s held the interim post for only about seven months. Collins-Greenup is running as the “People’s Candidate,” though her boss where she worked until about five months ago said she was largely unknown even in her home parish.

A pastor, accountant and law student with two sons in college, Collins-Greenup traveled around the state to meet voters at churches, at community events and even when she “was just jogging or something."

The personal touch seemed to work in a campaign that attracted little attention and less money. She’s continuing much the same strategy going into the runoff.

As a semi-incumbent — his name is on the secretary of state website and the elections equipment — Ardoin has been speaking at functions across the state since the Nov. 6 primary. His message has been one of protecting election integrity, which resonates with Republican voters.

Election integrity has long been a staple among conservatives. President Donald Trump has claimed millions of votes were cast illegally in the 2016 presidential election. Bloggers and talk show hosts have been pointing to vote count controversies in Broward County, Florida, and in Georgia. 

Republicans have rallied around initiatives to purge voters from rolls, forbid registration on Election Day and require photo IDs before allowing voters to cast ballots. Democrats, in general, have argued that such tactics hinder minorities, who are more likely to back Democratic candidates, from voting far more than voters among the majority population.

Collins-Greenup generally approves of voter ID and opposes Election Day registration, at least given the minimal number of commissioners assigned to each polling station now. But the method of purging voters from registration rolls is the one policy issue where the two candidates have nuanced differences of opinions.

Louisiana routinely compares voter rolls with various databases, such as death and incarceration records. Several cards are mailed to voters suspected of having moved. If the cards bounce back, state elections officials start looking closer. That’s when the voter’s name is checked against the list of those who haven’t voted in the past two federal elections. The voter who still hasn’t answered state queries goes on an inactive list but can still vote. Showing up for an election removes the voter from the inactive list.

“We don’t remove voters for inactivity,” Ardoin said. “If you get removed, it’s because your address can’t be confirmed.

Collins-Greenup counters that more patience is needed.

When people move or are evicted, they’re not focusing on changing their addresses with the registrar of voters, she said. Outreach and education are necessary to remind voters to keep their addresses up to date in voter registration files.

This issue plays into her key point that voter participation is too low.

“Louisiana has nearly 3 million registered voters with a 15 percent voter turnout in most elections. That's around 450,000 people making decisions for 4.6 million Louisianans,” Collins-Greenup said.

In the November primary, however, half the state’s 2.99 million registered voters showed up. But much of that participation was attributed to midterm congressional races that amounted to a referendum on Trump.

Only about 15 percent of the registered voters are expected to participate Saturday.

Baton Rouge pollster John Couvillon noted in his analysis that early voting numbers were lackluster but good enough to prevent “this year’s runoff turnout from having the embarrassing distinction of being the worst turnout ever.”

Not much is happening Saturday. Denham Springs is holding a Christmas parade as are a few other towns. Deer hunters can use modern weapons in most districts. With college football on hiatus until the bowl games, fans will have the Army-Navy game to watch.

Heavy rain is forecast throughout the state.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.