New Orleanians will begin choosing the city's next mayor Friday as early voting for the Nov. 18 election begins a day earlier than usual. There are other local contests on the ballot in New Orleans and in Jefferson, St. Tammany and St. Bernard parishes, as well as a statewide contest for the low-profile job of state treasurer.
Although analysts say the election could attract the lowest turnout statewide in the past three decades, interest is high in New Orleans for the runoff between LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet to become the city's first woman mayor.
Early voting usually starts two Saturdays before an election and runs through the next Saturday. The Legislature moved up opening day to Friday this time to accommodate the Veterans Day holiday next Friday.
All 64 parishes will be voting on a new state treasurer, a race that has attracted little attention despite being the state’s chief money manager and one of seven state government officials elected statewide.
In Orleans Parish, besides the mayor's race, voters will choose two City Council members, in Districts B and E, and a Civil District Court judge. They also will vote on a City Charter amendment providing for creation of a "savings fund" amounting to 5 percent of the city's annual budget and available for use only in emergencies. Finally, they will decide on renewing taxes or fees in eight of the city's numerous neighborhood security and improvement districts.
Jefferson Parish voters will cast ballots on a parishwide tax for public schools and a fire protection tax in a small district, plus a tax in the Stonebridge Neighborhood Improvement District.
In St. Tammany Parish, besides a runoff in the Covington area for the 77th District House seat, the ballot includes a tax in Lighting District 6 and a $7.8 million bond issue in Recreation District 14.
St. Bernard Parish voters will decide on three school tax renewals totaling about 32 mills.
Many other parishes have runoffs for judges, council members or other local offices, and more than 30 parishes have local tax millage propositions on the ballot.
Overall, however, “56 of 64 parishes don’t have races that you would anticipate would attract voters,” Secretary of State Tom Schedler said.
He calculates that 300,000 to 350,000 of the state’s 2.97 million voters will participate in the Nov. 18 election. That’s about 10 to 12 percent — down from the 401,499 voters, or 14 percent, who cast ballots in the Oct. 14 primary, which itself had the lowest turnout in 30 years, he said.
“I don’t see any enthusiasm,” Schedler said.
In New Orleans, the mayoral primary attracted 32.2 percent of eligible voters. It eliminated 16 of the 18 mayoral hopefuls, leaving Cantrell, a City Council member, and Charbonnet, a former Municipal Court judge, to battle it out in an increasingly bitter campaign.
Voters can cast ballots early from Friday through Nov. 11, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except on Sunday and Nov. 10, Veterans Day, which is a state holiday. Parish registrar of voters’ offices and other locations are available to accept ballots.
Schedler's office has a complete list of early voting sites at voterportal.sos.la.gov/EarlyVoting or through its smartphone app, GeauxVote Mobile.
A total of 96,742 voters statewide cast ballots early in the October primary, accounting for 24 percent of the total votes.
The expected low statewide turnout will give New Orleans votes more impact on the state treasurer’s race.
New Orleans lawyer Derrick Edwards, a Democrat, and former Covington state Rep. John Schroder, a Republican, were the top two vote-getters in the primary. Though Edwards led the field, 67 percent of those voting backed a Republican.
Edwards and Schroder are competing to fill out the remaining two years of longtime treasurer John N. Kennedy’s term. He has moved to the U.S. Senate.
Usually, Orleans Parish accounts for 8 percent to 10 percent of the votes cast in the state. But in the Oct. 14 primary, New Orleans accounted for 18 percent of the total vote statewide.
“When you’re talking 10 to 11 percent turnout and the biggest turnout being in New Orleans, well, anything can happen,” said Lionel Rainey with the Schroder campaign.