Decision 2016 – (Halftime Report for) Early Voting in Louisiana

In person early voting has now been underway for three days 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 have three days of early voting told us with regards to voter turnout?

Record early voting turnout

Records continue to be broken: when the 2008 Presidential election was the first Presidential cycle that Louisianians could early vote, a record at the time of 99,190 early voted after three days. The record was broken again in the 2012 Presidential election, when 136,694 early voted after three days. As of yesterday, that record has been shattered again: 228,865 have thus far early voted (a 67% increase over 2012).

As before, the top three early voting parishes still are Orleans (21,368 early  votes), East Baton Rouge (20,387), and St Tammany (18,838).

And 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 has been substantially higher (relative to 2012): 129% in Livingston, 62% in East Baton Rouge, and 60% in Ascension.

Who benefits?

All 64 parishes showed an increase in early voting relative to the first three days of 2012. When analyzing the racial and partisan composition of the early vote, there is a now mild partisan advantage for the Republicans: the racial composition was 71-26% white/black, while the partisan composition was 46-39% Democrat/Republican. These numbers are somewhat more Republican friendly than after three days in 2012 (67-30% white/black and 50-36% Democrat/Republican).

Furthermore, in JMC’s experience, the Democratic and/or black composition of early voters tends to rise once we get into the last three (Saturday, next Monday, and next Tuesday) days of early voting: to illustrate, 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 after three days of early voting.

  • Early voting projected turnout as of October 28: between 586 and 675K (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 29 and 33% 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.