Louisiana voters have again set records with early voting and casting ballots by mail absentee. Whatever the partisan analyses may show, and there’s much debate over who “won” the 10-day in-person early voting, we think that’s good for democracy.
Obviously, though, things are not exactly normal this year.
Citizens have been turning out early in large numbers in every state. With roughly 70 million ballots cast across the nation, that’s more than half of all the votes cast by whatever method in 2016.
Voting is no longer, too, a one-size-fits-all Election Day: Some states mail ballots to all voters, some have extensive in-person early voting. Louisiana had a 10-day early voting period, a little longer than the normal one week; some mail balloting is easier under the pandemic-inspired emergency voting plan backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and enforced by the U.S. District Court.
In other states, early voting will continue right up to Election Day on Tuesday.
Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political scientist and an expert on voter turnout, told The New York Times that the numbers nationwide are “stunning.”
That they are, in Louisiana as everywhere else. About half the vote in our state in 2016 — not a small year for turnout — has also been cast before Election Day.
Did Democrats “win” early voting? A close analyst of the early voting trends is John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge pollster.
While the heated presidential election and the fear of infection undoubtedly have been key factors, Couvillon said that for 12 elections in a row, early voting has constituted more than 20% of the vote. That’s an important constituency that political campaigns ignore at their peril, he said.
To the extent that there is any reading of the tea leaves, it is that Democrats usually get more of their registered voters out later in an early voting period; this time, those D ballots were spread out over the 10-day period. But there were a lot of them.
“Not only did the volume of early voters set daily records, but early voting turnout itself has been noticeably and consistently more Democratic,” Couvillon commented Wednesday. “In 2016, the racial composition of the early vote was 70-27% white/black and 44-39% Democratic/Republican. As of last night, the racial breakdown was 65-30% white/black and 44-37% Democratic/Republican.”
Polling has suggested that, as in 2016, Louisiana is a safe state for President Donald Trump, but these numbers may have some impact on races down the ballot. Election Day, though, will still be, as the president would say, huge.
As with national analysts, Couvillon projects a heavy turnout based on these numbers. Again, we think that more citizens doing their civic duty is a good thing. Lines were slower in some parishes, including Jefferson, as officials tried to deal with crowds and sanitize voting machines. We commend election officials at the state and parish levels working to make it easier for people to vote.