Decision 2017: A (runoff) post mortem

The 2017 election cycle in Louisiana has concluded with last night’s runoffs, and Republican former state representative John Schroder is now State Treasurer. However, his 56-44% victory was identical to the margin that Republican Bill Cassidy defeated Mary Landrieu in the 2014 runoffs. There was a unique set of circumstances at play leading to this identical result, which can be explained by these highlights gleaned from examination of unofficial precinct data:

  1. Extremely low voter turnout: In the primary, 401K voted in the Treasurer’s race, which itself was abysmal for a statewide election. That low turnout further dropped to 373K (or 13%) in the runoff;
  2. Statewide turnout was actually propped up by the mayoral runoff in New Orleans, and turnout in that one parish increased 12% over primary turnout. At the same time, turnout dropped 11% in the other 63 parishes. Because of this, an unprecedented 22% of the statewide vote came from Orleans Parish – compared to an already high 19% of the statewide primary vote coming from this one parish;
  3. Early voting remains popular: JMC has calculated that in the primary, 23% of the vote was cast early, while in the runoff, 25% did. That is just shy of the record 26% who early voted for the 2016 Presidential election. More importantly, this marks the sixth statewide election in a row starting with the October 2015 statewide primary where early voting has exceeded 20% of the total vote cast;
  4. Stronger black turnout: (11/19 AM update) In the primary, the breakdown of the electorate was 71-26% white/black, which is on the low side for black turnout. From unofficial precinct data, JMC has estimated that turnout in white precincts decreased 14% from the primary (16% outside of Orleans Parish, while it increased 4% in Orleans), while black turnout increased 6% (11% increase in Orleans Parish and a 2% increase outside of Orleans). This resulted in an estimated 67-31% white/black electorate – the last time black turnout was this strong was for the 2012 Presidential race (with Barack Obama on the ballot);
  5. A new Democratic voting base: Increasingly, the base Democratic vote in Louisiana has two consistent components to it: (1) a near unanimous black vote (although numerical turnout varies from election to election), and (2) a more liberal white voter base from both Orleans and East Baton Rouge Parishes (Despite an essentially invisible runoff campaign, Edwards received 53% of the white vote in Orleans and 27% in East Baton Rouge).