In person early voting concluded last night for the 2016 Presidential election in Louisiana, although mail in absentee ballots are still being accepted for several more days. What has early voting told us about voter turnout/which voters are turning out ?
Record early voting turnout
As of last night, 515,181 early voted, which is a new record that surpassed the previously set records of 356,603 in 2012 and 292,213 in 2008 – this record volume is a 51% increase over 2012).
Throughout early voting, three parishes have consistently led the way in terms of pure volume: as of last night, those parishes were Orleans (48,968 early votes), East Baton Rouge (47,064), and St Tammany (43,623).
And despite speculation about whether flooding will affect Presidential voting participation, there has been no evidence throughout early voting week that the devastating floods back in August are impacting turnout. In the three larger parishes in South Louisiana that bore the brunt of the flood’s devastation, early voting turnout has been substantially higher (relative to 2012): 127% in Livingston, 47% in East Baton Rouge, and 46% in Ascension.
All 64 parishes showed an increase in early voting as of last night. When analyzing the racial and partisan composition of the early vote, there is a mild partisan advantage for the Republicans: the racial composition was 70-27% white/black, while the partisan composition was 44-39% Democrat/Republican. These numbers are more Republican friendly than in 2012 (64-33% white/black and 51-34% Democrat/Republican).
As predicted in the last column, the Democratic and/or black composition of early voters increased in the last several days, but it didn’t move the needle that much – the black percentage went from 25 to 27%, while the Democratic percentage actually DROPPED from 45 to 44%.
Projected early voting, overall turnout
Projecting turnout is a “moving target”, but now that early voting has been in existence in Louisiana for a decade, JMC has some benchmarks it can use to project early voting and/or final turnout, given that nearly all of the early vote (except for an estimated 20K absentee ballots yet to be mailed in) is in:
- Early voting projected turnout: between 541 and 572K (Was 356K in 2012)
- Projected turnout: JMC remains reluctant to assume that statewide turnout will exceed the 68% turnout figure from 2012. Therefore, the assumption for now is that the turnout will be more “front loaded”, and using that assumption, projects that between 26 and 28% of the vote will be cast early (early voting represented 18% of the total in 2012).
Why do we make a big deal about early voting? When the Legislature essentially established “no fault” early voting a decade ago, you now have a noticeable constituency of people who prefer the convenience of early voting, and this constituency has twice (during the 2015 primary and runoff elections) exceeded 20%. A politician would be foolish to ignore this many voters, especially in a closely contested race. Also, too, early voting numbers are the first ones that are typically reported after polls have closed at 8 PM.