- MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Early voting was sluggish in advance of this weekend’s runoff election, with fewer than 6 percent of Louisiana’s 3 million registered voters casting ballots.
About 171,000 voters went to the polls in advance, during the just-ended early voting period for the Saturday election that will decide an open U.S. Senate seat and two open U.S. House seats, along with dozens of local elections.
That’s only a third of the people who early voted ahead of last month’s primary election, which had the attention-grabbing presidential race on the ballot.
December elections historically have had low turnouts, and Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office expects about 35 percent of voters statewide to show up for the election, compared to 68 percent for the presidential election.
Top of the ballot is the competition for a U.S. Senate seat between Democrat Foster Campbell, a state utility regulator with the Public Service Commission, and Republican John Kennedy, the state treasurer.
Louisiana’s runoff will decide the nation’s last U.S. Senate seat, and Kennedy is the front-runner. Early voting data appears to be more favorable to the Republican contender.
White voters cast early ballots in greater proportions than black voters during the week-long early voting period, according to statistics released Monday by Schedler’s office.
While 31 percent of registered voters are African-American, only 24 percent of those who cast ballots ahead of Election Day were black. That’s a problem for Campbell, who needs strong turnout from black voters, who traditionally support Democratic candidates.
Republicans also turned out in greater proportions than their Democratic and independent counterparts. While 30 percent of state voters are registered with the GOP, they made up 42 percent of the early voters, according to the data.
Also on the ballot are races for two U.S. House seats, left open because Republican incumbents Charles Boustany and John Fleming unsuccessfully ran for the Senate instead of re-election.
The 3rd District seat representing southwest and south central Louisiana is a competition between two Republicans: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, the third-place finisher in last year’s governor’s race; and former sheriff’s Capt. Clay Higgins, dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” for his attention-drawing Crime Stoppers segments.
The 4th District seat representing northwest Louisiana is a competition between Republican state Rep. Mike Johnson of Benton and Democratic lawyer Marshall Jones of Shreveport.
Demographer John Couvillon reviewed early voting data and said in his analysis that both districts have shown a larger Republican tilt among voters who cast early ballots for the runoff election.
Several judgeships and municipal races also will be settled Saturday, along with propositions across 44 parishes, according to Schedler’s office.
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