After five days of early voting, and two left to go, the relatively low turnout rate so far doesn’t bode well for two tax proposals on the Dec. 8 ballot in East Baton Rouge Parish.
Statewide, nearly 83,000 voters have already cast their ballots as of last night, according to the Secretary of State’s office. This year’s primary election, for comparison, drew about 215,000 early votes in five days.
East Baton Rouge currently leads all other parishes with 9,680 early votes, though political experts say that number is still low, especially if the city-parish hopes to pass two tax hikes: a sales tax for MovEBR road improvements and a property tax for the Bridge Center mental health facility.
To understand why, it’s important to look back at the 2016 election, says political consultant John Couvillon. That year, East Baton Rouge had two similar tax proposals on the ballot: the Green Light 2 roads tax and the same Bridge Center tax.
Those two tax plans failed despite high Democratic turnout in the 2016 election due to two major races that year—the runoff for Baton Rouge mayor and the runoff for the U.S. Senate seat—Couvillon says.
After five days of early voting in the 2016 election, nearly 14,000 voters had cast their ballots in the parish, and of those, 37% were African-Americans and 37% were Republicans, according to Couvillon’s records. Of the 9,680 early voters so far for the Dec. 8 election, 34% are African-American and 39% are Republican, indicating a less Democratic, more anti-tax electorate.
“The climate was more favorable (to taxes) back in 2016,” Couvillon says, adding that the ballot featured a black Democrat running for mayor in East Baton Rouge and Democratic Senate candidate Foster Campbell invested a lot of money in the parish.
Still, voters rejected both tax proposals that year.
Other political consultants agree that low turnout—which often means more white, conservative voters—could be a bad sign for MovEBR and the Bridge Center tax proposals.
“The lower the turnout, normally, the less likely a tax has the chance to pass,” says pollster Bernie Pinsonat.
Based on early turnout, Couvillon predicts total turnout for the Dec. 8 election will be between 13% to 24%, compared to a high 51% in the November primary.
Read a recent Business Report cover package for a detailed look at the MovEBR and Bridge Center tax proposals.