Decision 2017 – “3rd Quarter Report” of Runoff Early Voting in Louisiana

In person early voting is now underway for the November 18 runoff, with two days remaining – due to the Veterans Day holiday’s being tomorrow, an extra day of early voting (Friday, November 3) was added at the beginning. As before, the special election for Treasurer is at the top of the ballot, as are several unsettled races in New Orleans, a state representative race in Covington for the House seat vacated by John Schroder (who resigned his seat to run for Treasurer), and a Court Judge’s race in south Baton Rouge, just to name a few items on the ballot throughout the state. In person early voting continues until this Saturday, November 11.

Lagging voter enthusiasm

Given that early voting is near its end, how has runoff turnout compared to primary early voting turnout? After five days of primary early voting, 67,853 early/absentee voted. This group of early voters was 73-25% white/black and 49-40% Democrat/Republican.

As of last night, 61,336 have early voted, for an early voting volume 10% less than in the primary. These early voters remain somewhat more Democratic (71-27% white/black and 48-41% Democrat/Republican) than in the primary, and it’s also worth noting that in JMC’s experience, the last two days of early voting (particularly Saturday) tend to be more Democratic. And as before (i.e., the initial analysis done), two factors are impacting the numbers: mail in ballots and the New Orleans runoff.

Mail and New Orleans

Unlike the primary, when there was a “spike” in mail in ballots reported on the first day, mail volume is down 24% relative to what it was in the primary, while in person early voting has been only 3% less than it was after a comparable period of time during primary early voting. And it is JMC’s belief (as before) that the volume of in person early voting (as opposed to mail in volume) is at this point in the process a more accurate barometer of runoff early voting (and ultimately, Election Day) turnout.

New Orleans was different. While statewide early voting volume (as of last night) was 10% lower than it was in the primary, it was 8% higher in New Orleans, thus resulting in Orleans Parish’s representing 19% of the total statewide early vote (it was 16% after five days of primary early voting). This 19% figure is unusually high for a parish that typically makes up 8-10% of the statewide vote

New Orleans has an elevated importance in this election cycle because of the timing of its municipal elections (several of which went to a runoff). Historically, its elections for Mayor, other parish wide offices, and the New Orleans City Council were held during Mardi Gras season. The timing of those elections was recently changed to the fall, and this is the first election cycle where New Orleans elections were held in conjunction with a statewide election cycle, thus giving this one parish a greater influence than it would normally have.

New Orleans impact (3rd Quarter analysis)

In his last article, JMC debunked the “groupthink” that suggested (without any quantitative verification) that Democratic Treasurer candidate Derrick Edwards could win the runoff solely on elevated New Orleans turnout. Specifically, it was determined that all of the following had to occur for Edwards to win:

  • 50% turnout increase in Orleans Parish,
  • 72% decrease in turnout in the other 63 parishes,
  • Edwards’ receiving 58% of the Riser vote in Orleans Parish, and
  • Edwards’ receiving 58% of the Davis vote in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Thus far, New Orleans turnout has been 8% higher, while in the other 63 parishes, early voting turnout is down 13% relative to what it was in the primary. Given these turnout numbers so far, even assuming that Edwards gets the crossover vote described above, that still gets him only to 38% of the vote.

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 established (and continuously refined) benchmarks that can be used to project early voting and/or final turnout.

In this case, JMC is of the initial opinion that runoff turnout will be somewhat less than it was in the primary. More specifically:

  • Projected early/absentee vote: 89-104K (97K in the October primary)
  • Projected turnout volume: 371-434K (424K in the October primary)
  • Projected turnout percentage: 12-13% (14% in the October 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 five times in a row (the 2015 primary, 2015 runoff, 2016 Presidential elections, December 2016 runoff, and October 2017 primary) exceeded 20% – it was 24% in the October primary. 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.