Early voting for the Congressional elections/runoff elections for local races started yesterday and will continue until Tuesday, October 26. From examining early voting statistics provided to us by the Secretary of State, there are several things we noticed:
(1) We expected that November early voting would be equivalent to that of a statewide election and, based on the first day’s results, weren’t disappointed. Yesterday, 17297 voters cast an early vote, which we project will equal a 121100 early vote volume by the time early voting concludes next Tuesday (or a projected tatewide turnout between 28-41%). To put this figure in perspective, in the moderate turnout 2007 Governor’s primary, 139400 early voted. And in the high turnout 2008 Presidential race, 283500 early voted;
(2) Republican enthusiasm was apparent in the first day of early voting: Democrats led by only 47-42%, despite having a 51-26% edge in voter registration. Furthermore, in the major statewide elections held since the Legislature liberalized absentee/early voting, Republicans have only once exceeded the 42% number, and that was in the August 2010 Congressional only primaries;
(3) To put the Republican early voting enthusiasm in perspective, in the 2007 Governor’s race, Democrats led 52-36%, while in the 2008 Presidential race, Democrats led 58-29%;
(4) (UPDATED 10/20 PM) Another interesting thing we saw with regards to the early voting was that there was a decent black early vote as well: the racial breakdown of yesterday’s early voting was 76-22% white/black, largely due to abnormally high absentee voting in five parishes: East Carroll, Evangeline, Orleans, Pointe Coupee, and St. Landry. For comparison’s sake, in the October primary, the racial breakdown was 73-25% white/black;
In conclusion, there are several characteristics about early voting that need to be noted: (a) early voting is usually heaviest on the first and last days, and we are therefore expecting the volume of early voting for the next few days to plummet; (b) we are making somewhat of a big deal about the early vote volume, because when the Legislature essentially established “no fault” early voting several years ago, more and more people are choosing to early vote, so a constituency of 5-15% of the vote is something a politician would be foolish to ignore – especially in a closely contested race; (c) these numbers are the ones that are typically reported on the TV screen several minutes after polls close at 8 PM.