Decision 2018 – Conclusion of Runoff Early Voting in Louisiana

In person early voting concluded yesterday in Louisiana (mail in absentees can still be accepted up to the day before Election Day). What did early voting this election cycle tell us?

Low (but not the lowest ever) voter enthusiasm

Early voting started off with a whimper, and while the volume picked up somewhat after that abysmal first day, it never increased enough for the turnout volume to be impressive in any way. Total early voting volume was 118,906 (95,937 in person, and 22,969 by mail). While this 119K figure is far less than the 307K who had early/absentee voted as of the close of in person early voting in the November primary, it’s still better than it was either for last year’s special election primary (92K) or runoff (86K) for Treasurer, thus preventing this year’s runoff turnout from having the embarrassing distinction of being the worst turnout ever.

JMC has noted that Democrats tend to vote either on Saturdays and/or at the last minute. And they didn’t disappoint yesterday, with massive black turnout (although “massive” was in terms of percentage and not turnout volume) that approached levels only seen in races with a motivated black electorate, like in 2008/2012 (Obama), 2014 (Landrieu primary), 2015 (John Bel Edwards runoff), or 2017 (Derrick Edwards runoff). More specifically, yesterday’s electorate was 61-36% white/black and 51-36% Democrat/Republican.

While this last minute Democratic surge was noteworthy, the overall runoff early voting electorate wasn’t (from a percentage standpoint) substantially different than the primary: primary early voting electorate was 69-28% white/black and 46-39% Democratic/Republican, while the early voting electorate as of last night was 68-30% white/black and 48-39.5% Democratic/Republican. In political terms, this means that the 36% Democratic base vote from the primary is most likely 38% now, and this 2% gives “Gwen” Collins-Greenup (the Democrat in the runoff for Secretary of State) a bit of a bump, but certainly not enough to be electorally viable without Republican crossover votes.

Yesterday’s top three early voting parishes were East Baton Rouge (14,186 early votes), St Tammany (8,360), and Orleans (8,249).

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 more than a decade, JMC has established (and continuously refined) benchmarks that can be used to project early voting and/or final turnout.

For this election cycle, JMC believes that while runoff turnout will be much less than in the primary, it won’t be the worst turnout ever. More specifically:

  • Projected turnout volume: 411-642K (1519K in the November primary)
  • Projected turnout percentage: 14-21% (51% in the November 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 seven times in a row (the 2015 primary, 2015 runoff, 2016 Presidential elections, December 2016 runoff, October 2017 primary, November 2017 runoff, and November 2018 primary) exceeded 20% – it was 21% in the November 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.