More than 985,000 voters across Louisiana cast their ballots in early voting last month, a record number that political analysts project will mean a total turnout of at least 73% this historic Election Day.
It also means the candidates in the Baton Rouge mayor’s race that had the strongest name recognition early on will finish on top today, according to political analyst John Couvillon of JMC Analytics.
“East Baton Rouge Parish cracked 100,000 in early voting,” Couvillon says. “That means the candidates who had better name recognition early on have a marginal advantage and the candidates who saved their money for TV in the final two weeks should have been on the air earlier.”
Couvillon, in early October, conducted the only independent poll in the Baton Rouge mayor’s race that has been publicly released. It put Mayor Sharon Weston Broome far in front with 41% compared to Steve Carter, 14%, Matt Watson, 13%, C. Denise Marcelle, 11%, Jordan Piazza, 4%, and E. Eric Guirard, 1%.
Couvillon, who conducted that poll for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, says he has since updated the survey for internal use only. Though he won’t divulge the results, he suggests it shows, if anything, that Broome, a Democratic incumbent, could actually win outright in today’s primary.
“I think that is a very legitimate question to ask based on what I’ve seen,” he says. “It will depend on Broome’s strength among white voters, the extent to which Marcelle pulls votes from Broome and what Black voter turnout will be today.”
Black voters, who comprise 44% of total voters in East Baton Rouge Parish, had a strong showing initially in early voting but dropped off in the final days, Couvillon says.
So far this morning, polling sites around the parish have been packed, with many precincts reporting long lines shortly after opening at 6 a.m. But both the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office and the EBR clerk of court say they have not received reports of significant problems, unrest or voter intimidation.
“For all the rumors and national outcry and potential for conflict, it’s just been a model so far,” says Fred Sliman, public information officer for the EBR clerk of court. “Just a handful of machines have malfunctioned but that’s nothing out of the ordinary and the secretary of state’s office has already sent over replacements. I’m just holding my breath that it stays this good all day.”