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

In person early voting started yesterday for the December 10 runoff and will continue until next Saturday, December 3. The runoff ballot contains the US Senate race, two Congressional races, the Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish, and assorted local races/tax propositions. What did yesterday’s early vote tell us ?

Dismal early voting turnout

While early voting was expected to drop off relative to the Presidential race, yesterday’s early vote was still a very steep (74%) drop-off compared to the first day of primary early voting – 22,202 early voted yesterday (87,066 early voted on the first day for the Presidential race). To put this number in perspective, the last time first day early voting was this low was during the 2011 statewide elections, which had a 37% voter turnout.

Yesterday’s top three early voting parishes were East Baton Rouge (2,881 early  votes), St Tammany (2,476), and Orleans (1,956).

While yesterday’s turnout was abysmally low, it probably didn’t help that early voting started during the Thanksgiving holidays. Let’s see if turnout rebounds any tomorrow.

Minimal Democratic enthusiasm

In addition to the low turnout, Democrats didn’t turn out in large numbers either: the racial breakdown of early voters was 77-19% white/black (for comparison’s sake, first day early voting was 70-27% white/black for the Presidential race) – the last time the black percentage was this low on the first day was the 2010 Senate race. Furthermore, Republicans outvoted Democrats for the first time ever: the partisan breakdown was 43.5-41% Republican/Democratic (it was 48-38% Democratic/Republican in the primary).

It will be interesting to see if more Democrats early vote throughout the week, although in JMC’s experience, Democratic early voting tends to be the heaviest on Saturdays for Saturday elections.

JMC’s projections of early voting volume, overall turnout

Projecting turnout is a constantly moving target throughout early voting week, but since early voting has been in existence in Louisiana for a decade, JMC has benchmarks that can be used to project early voting and/or final turnout.

Projected early/absentee vote: 135-188K (532K in the primary)

Projected turnout volume: 521-1044K (2,050K in the primary)

Projected turnout percentage: 17-35% (68% in the primary)

In Conclusion

Why does early voting matter? 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 for three times in a row (the 2015 primary, 2015 runoff, and 2016 Presidential elections) exceeded 20%. A politician would be foolish to ignore this many “up front” 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.