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Table shields and social distancing are part of early voting preparations ahead of Friday's start of balloting at Forest Park Community Center. Signage, social distancing, other arrangements are being set up to accommodate voters Thursday Oct. 15, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La.

Early voting starts Friday and election officials in Baton Rouge anticipate long lines and heavy turnout as voters flock to the polls to cast their ballots amid an ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has upended all aspects of civic life. 

Election workers will be decked out in full personal protective equipment, and voting machines and pens will be sanitized between voters. Masks are encouraged — but not required — and hand sanitizer will available. 

Early voting will run until Oct. 27, excluding Sundays, and polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election day is Nov. 3. 

Residents can vote at any of the five early voting locations regardless of where they live in the parish. The voting site typically located at the Coursey Boulevard fire station has been moved to Forest Community Park on South Harrell's Ferry Road to better accommodate social distancing. 

Baton Rouge pollster John Couvillon forecasts heavy turnout for the first day of in-person early voting. He said 78,000 mail-in ballots have already been submitted in Louisiana, dwarfing the 22,000 mail-in ballots submitted by the start of early voting four years ago.

Couvillon expects in-person early voting to be just as substantial, and predicts that the number of ballots cast statewide will exceed the 65,000 cast on the first day of early voting in 2016. 

Parish Registrar of Voters Steve Raborn said voters should prepare for long lines, and encouraged residents to print out or review a sample ballot online or on the GeauxVote mobile phone application and bring it with them to the polls to speed up the voting process. 

"It's also a great idea to bring some patience," Raborn added. 

Where can I vote?

Voters in East Baton Rouge Parish can cast a ballot at any one of the five early voting sites, which includes: 

  • City Hall - 222 St. Louis Street, Room 607, Baton Rouge
  • State Archives Building - 3851 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge
  • Forest Community Park - 13900 S. Harrell's Ferry Road, Baton Rouge
  • Baker Motor Vehicle Building - 2250 Main Street, Baker
  • Central Branch Library - 11260 Joor Road, Central 

What do I need to bring?

Be prepared to show a photo identification card with your photo and signature or a United States military identification card that contains your name and picture. Voter registration ended on Tuesday. 

If you do not have a photo ID, you may obtain a free Louisiana special identification card by presenting your voter registration information card to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles or you may vote by affidavit after correctly answering identifying information before voting. 

Campaign shirts, hats, buttons or pins are prohibited at polling sites. 

What is on the ballot?

This year's ballot includes local races for mayor-president, Metro Council, and district judge, as well as the highly anticipated race for U.S. President. Voters will also vote for a U.S. Senator and Representative. 

The ballot will also include referendums on seven proposed constitutional amendments, touching on issues ranging from abortion to sports gambling. 

Sample ballots are available online at www.voterportal.sos.la.gov or through the GeuxVote mobile phone application. 

Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater