2011 Elections “Kickoff” – First day of Early Voting

Early voting for Louisiana’s October 22 statewide primary started yesterday and will continue until next Saturday (mail in ballots will still be accepted until the day before Election Day). From examining early voting statistics provided to us by the Secretary of State, there are several things we noticed:

Low turnout

Yesterday’s turnout was 23,307. What does this volume of early voting mean? Given the fact that the first day is typically the busiest day, we project at the present time that by Election Day, there will be about 119,200 early votes. This figure is 14% less than early voting was for the 2007 statewide primary, and at the present time would suggest a 40% statewide voter turnout.

Does this projection contradict our earlier prediction of a 27-29% turnout? It’s far too early to tell, for two reasons: (1) we  know from historical data that early voting for the next six days will be lower than yesterday’s figures, but the extent to which there will be a “plunge” is not yet known, (2) early voting was very high in the rural parishes; we think that local and/or legislative races brought a disproportionate number of voters to the polls in those parishes yesterday and therefore will result in some “front loaded” early voting, (3) you have a complicating factor – an LSU home game against Florida, which we think contributed to an extremely low early vote in East Baton Rouge Parish (the projected early vote based on yesterday’s numbers was 67% less than it was in 2007).

Below is a map ahowing those parishes where early voting was noticeably high (Note: “Very high EV volume” is wherever projected turnout based on early voting volume exceeded 100%, while “High EV volume” is wherever projected turnout based on early voting volume exceeded 50%)

Early voting volume as of October 8

Early voting volume as of October 8

Strong Democratic vote

Somewhat surprisingly, there was a Democratic tilt to yesterday’s early voters: 58% of yesterday’s early voters were Democrats, and 30% were Republicans. This is a figure significantly higher than it was in the 2007 statewide elections (the early voters then were 52-36% Democratic). In fact, this breakdown is eerily similar to the early voting for the 2008 Presidential election (early voting then was 58-28% Democratic).

Similarly, 31% of early voters yesterday were black – a percentage roughly double what it was in 2007. In fact, the only time early voting was higher than 31% was in the 2008 Presidential election. Part of this is certainly due to local races like sheriff and police juror/parish council, but the additional fact is there are quite a few competitive legislative races in black majority districts.

Why do we make a big deal about early voting? When the Legislature essentially established “no fault” early voting several years ago, you now have a noticeable constituency of people who prefer the convenience of early voting, and this constituency has thus far ranged from 10 to 14% – 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.

We will keep an eye on early voting volume, and update you as to the status throughout the week.