Early voting for the Nov. 4 election begins Oct. 21 and continues through Oct. 28, and Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is anticipating that nearly one in five voters will take advantage of the chance to cast an early vote.
"When we started [early voting], we were at 10 or 11 percent," he told Gambit last week, "but over the last few elections, we plateaued at 20 percent." Those votes, Schedler notes, do not represent new voters, but existing voters who are casting ballots instead of going to the polls on Election Day.
The easiest way for voters to prepare themselves for voting is to download the state's official "Geaux Vote" app (available for iPhone and Android devices), or visit www.geauxvote.com, according to Meg Casper of the Secretary of State's office. Either method will bring voters to a page where they can enter their addresses and receive a customized sample ballot that they can fill out before going to the polls. Information entered on the smartphone sample ballot never leaves the phone itself, Casper says, but voters can take their phones into voting booths for help in filling out the actual ballot. "To be able to bring it with you is a tremendous service," Casper says.
On the Secretary of State's website or the Geaux Vote smartphone app, voters can find early voting locations in their parishes, and on election night they can follow the results as they come in.
Besides the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives races, voters will be asked to vote on 14 constitutional amendments (see Gambit's recommendations on p. 13) as well as other issues and officials specific to their city or parish. In Orleans Parish, the ballot also includes four Civil District Court judgeships, two Criminal District Court judgeships and one Juvenile Court judgeship. Jefferson Parish has eight hotly contested school board races and a constable's race. Harahan residents will be picking a new mayor.
In the 2012 presidential race, voter turnout in Louisiana was about 70 percent. Schedler estimates turnout for this election to fall between 45 and 50 percent of registered voters. If you're not registered, you're out of luck for the Nov. 4 open primary; voter registration closed last week for that election. Louisianans have until Nov. 6 to register to vote in the Dec. 6 runoffs.