Decision 2020: Louisiana Presidential Primary vote

Louisiana’s twice delayed Presidential primary was finally held last night. Despite the fact that the Presidential race has been a non-event since “Super Tuesday” in March, people still exhibited some interest in the race: early voting this year was double the volume of the 2016 Presidential primary (201,306, compared to the 100,192 who early voted for the 2016 primary). What other takeaways are there from last night ?

No suspense for Democrats: Joe Biden won fairly comfortably with 80% of the Democratic vote – this is the one time primaries in Louisiana are closed, so only registered Democrats (who are 58% black) could vote. And interestingly enough, the Biden percentage in each parish was dependent on the black percentage of its Democratic electorate: in urban parishes like Caddo, East Baton Rouge, and Orleans, Biden received at least 80% of the vote, while in smaller parishes with a nearly all white electorate, Biden’s percentages were anemic: to use two examples, he received 41% in Cameron and 54% in Lafourche.

United Trump vote for Republicans: The Trump vote was united as well, as a near unanimous 96% of Republicans supported the President. There was a very faint hint of defections among urban (and more moderate) Republican constituencies: in three parishes, he received less than 95% of the vote: East Baton Rouge (92%), Jefferson (94%), and Orleans (82%). On the other hand, in 10 smaller, more rural parishes, he received 99% of the vote (his vote in LaSalle, in fact, was 99.5%).

Record early vote: In addition to the fact that early voting volume was twice the 2016 number, a record number (98,207) of mail in ballots were cast, which almost equaled the volume (103,099) of in person early votes – very rarely is the mail in percentage of the early vote that high. With the partisan data we currently have (we won’t know about Independent turnout until the Secretary of State publishes its turnout statistics in a couple of weeks), a record 39% of the vote was cast early – before that, 33% was the highest percentge of votes cast before Election Day, and that came from the 2019 Governor’s runoff.

Party enthusiasm: While the early vote was more lopsidedly Democratic, the Election Day vote was (relatively speaking) more Republican: if only the Democratic/Republican statewide vote is compiled, 60% of the early vote and 54% of the Election Day vote was Democratic. And on a numeric turnout basis, the 266,941 Democratic turnout was 14% less than 2016 primary turnout, while the Republican turnout of 204,175 was a 32% drop-off compared to 2016.

In conclusion, there are two takeaways from last night’s voting which DO matter in terms of the November election. The first is that the (relatively) stronger enthusiasm from Democrats would more likely than not would mean a narrowing of President Trump’s 2020 margin in Louisiana from 2016. And while this minor weakening of President Trump’s margin would have NO impact on his getting its electoral votes, a similarly energized Democratic electorate would matter in Southern states like Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, which have far fewer Republican “votes to spare.”

The other takeaway is the high percentage of people deciding to vote early – particularly by mail, which JMC at the present time estimates to have been 19% of the electorate (when we get turnout statistics, we can have a more accurate number). That kind of mail volume, if repeated in November, would result in 399K mail in votes (19% of an estimated 2.1 million voting electorate). This mail in volume would be more than SIX times what it was for the primary, and a volume that large may cause delays in reporting the vote on Election Night.