Decision 2016 – (First Day of) Early Voting in Louisiana

In person early voting is now underway for the 2016 Presidential election in Louisiana and will continue until next Tuesday, November 1 (after which, mail in absentee ballots will be accepted for another week). What did yesterday’s early vote tell us ?

Record early voting turnout

Louisianians are slowly but surely getting used to the idea of voting before Election Day: the first Presidential election where early voting was available was in 2008, and at that time, a (then) record of 34,498 early voted on the first day. The record was broken again in the 2012 Presidential election, when first day turnout was 54,989. Yesterday’s turnout statewide was 87,066 (a 58% increase over 2012) – the highest first day early vote EVER.

The top three early voting parishes were Orleans (9,033 early  votes), East Baton Rouge (7,137), and St Tammany (6,499).

Incidentally, despite speculation about whether flooding will affect Presidential voting participation, there is no evidence at this point that the devastating floods back in August will impact turnout. In the three larger parishes in South Louisiana that bore the brunt of the flood’s devastation, early voting turnout was substantially higher (relative to 2012): 134% in Livingston, 64% in East Baton Rouge, and 53% in Ascension.

Who benefits?

61 of 64 parishes showed an increase in their first day early voting relative to 2012. When analyzing the racial and partisan composition of the early vote, there really wasn’t an overwhelming partisan advantage to either the Democrats or Republicans: the racial composition was 70-27% white/black, while the partisan composition was 48-38% Democrat/Republican. These numbers are only a bit more Republican friendly than the first day numbers in 2012 (68-29% white/black and 51-37% Democrat/Republican).

Furthermore, in JMC’s experience, the Democratic and/or black composition of early voters tends to rise throughout early voting week (especially as it gets close to the end): in 2012, an initial 68-29% white/black racial composition became 64-33% by the time the last day of early voting came around.

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.

  • Early voting projected turnout as of October 26: between 564 and 737K (Was 356K in 2012)
  • Projected turnout: at this point, JMC is 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 27 and 36% of the vote will be cast early (early voting represented 18% of the total in 2012).

In Conclusion

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.