BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A little more than 12% of registered voters in Louisiana have cast their ballots ahead of next week’s elections, keeping up with the state’s steady increase in midterm election turnout.
Of the 363,009 residents who participated in the state’s early voting period, which ended Tuesday night, about 42% were registered Democrats and 43% were Republicans, according to data from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.
Most of Louisiana voters opt to vote in person on Election Day. But the percentage who vote early has been steadily increasing. During 2018 midterm elections about 11% of voters cast their ballots early, up from 8% in 2014 and 4% in 2010. Early voting topped 32% in 2020, though presidential election years tend to draw far more voters than midterms.
The state has placed a number of restrictions on mail-in voting. Absentee ballots need a notary or witness signature and can only go to older people, those with disabilities or voters who can show they cannot cast a ballot in person on Election Day. This election, absentee ballots went to about 3% of the total number of registered voters in the state.
Louisiana voters are deciding on a U.S. Senate race, six U.S. House races — one incumbent is running unopposed — and eight state constitutional amendments. Some races could be decided Nov. 8 due to the state’s unique “jungle primary.” Under this system all candidates, regardless of party, run against each other on the same ballot. If no one candidate tops 50% in that primary, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff in December.
Louisiana’s lone U.S. Senate race features Republican John Kennedy, who is seeking a second term. The former state treasurer, who has mostly provided a safe Senate vote for Republicans and been a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, faces a crowded field of 12 challengers.
Among the candidates are Democrats Luke Mixon, a commercial airline pilot endorsed by Gov. John Bel Edwards; and Gary Chambers Jr., who drew national attention earlier this year for an online ad that shows him smoking marijuana. However, it has been 14 years since Louisiana voters have elected a Democratic U.S. senator and Kennedy has raised an astounding $36 million in his reelection bid — 10 times as much as his Democratic challengers combined.
Louisiana’s seats in the U.S. House are viewed as safe for the incumbents, including Minority Whip Steve Scalise. All incumbents are running for reelection. Republicans hold five of the six seats.
Louisiana’s most closely watched race is for the 3rd Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Clay Higgins is seeking a fourth term. The former sheriff’s deputy faces a challenge from fellow Republican Holden Hoggatt, a prosecutor from Lafayette who has drawn bipartisan support from Higgins’ critics.
Voters will also have eight constitutional amendments to consider on the November ballot, including removing language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime.