Decision 2017 – Conclusion of Runoff Early Voting in Louisiana

In person early voting has just concluded for the November 18 runoff. 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. Absentee/mail in ballots can still be accepted throughout next week, although those ballots are typically a minute (about 5-10%) portion of all early/absentee votes cast.

Somewhat lower turnout

At the conclusion of in person early voting after the primary, 92,314 early voted, and the primary early voters were 72-26% white/black and 49-40% Democrat/Republican. For the runoff, 85,626 early voted (early voting volume up to this point was 7% less than it was in the primary), and these early voters were somewhat more Democratic (68-29% white/black and 50-39% Democrat/Republican) – Democrats turned out yesterday in disproportionate numbers, as JMC had previously forecast (i.e., Democrats maximize their early vote on the first and last Saturdays of early voting).

Those in New Orleans (who have several contested runoffs on their ballot) also voted in higher numbers, and Orleans Parish represented an unusually high 21% of the early vote (it was 17% at the end of primary early voting, and is typically 8-10% of the statewide electorate). This unusually high 21% figure is because in absolute numbers, Orleans Parish early voting turnout was 14% higher than it was in the primary, while in the other 63 parishes, turnout was 12% less.

Can New Orleans alone elect a Democratic Treasurer ?

Given that the predominant talk in some political circles was that New Orleans alone could swing the Treasurer’s race to Democrat Derrick Edwards, JMC decided to test this hypothesis a week ago, and determined that all four of the following had to happen:

  • 50% turnout increase in Orleans Parish, (As of last night, turnout increased 14%)
  • 72% decrease in turnout in the other 63 parishes, (As of last night, turnout decreased 12%)
  • Edwards’ receiving 58% of the Riser vote in Orleans Parish, and
  • Edwards’ receiving 58% of the Davis vote in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Given these turnout numbers so far, even assuming that Edwards gets the crossover vote described above, that still gets him only to 39% 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’s opinion is that runoff turnout will be somewhat less than it was in the primary. More specifically:

  • Projected early/absentee vote: 88-95K (97K in the October primary)
  • Projected turnout volume: 367-396K (424K in the October primary)
  • Projected turnout percentage: 11-12% (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.