(1) We expected that the Congressional primaries would be a low turnout affair, and the early voting numbers confirmed this expectation. Yesterday, 5657 voters cast an early vote, which we project will equal a 39600 early vote volume by the time early voting concludes next Saturday. To put this 39600 figure in perspective, in the moderate turnout 2007 Governor’s primary, 139400 early voted. And in the high turnout 2008 Presidential race, 283500 early voted;
(2) While there are contested Democratic and Republican primaries statewide for the Senate and in four Congressional districts, Republican enthusiasm was clearly higher than the Democrats/Independents (Independents can vote in Democratic primaries). In a state where Democrats and Independents outnumber registered Republicans 2.85 to 1, 3.22 Republicans yesterday showed up for every Democrat/Independent who did. In fact, in 37 parishes, more Republicans physically showed up, with especially strong Republican early voting in Bossier (17 Republicans to every Democrat/Independent), St Charles (11.8 Republicans to every Democrat/Independent), and St Martin (11.6 Republicans to every Democrat/Independent);
(3) To put the Republican early voting enthusiasm in perspective, yesterday’s early vote was 53-43% Republican (remembering, of course, that Independents can vote in the Democratic primary races). In the 2007 Governor’s race, Democrats led 52-36%, while in the 2008 Presidential race, Democrats led 58-29%;
(4) To what extent are Congressional primaries driving this turnout ? For the Democrats, not at all, while for the Republicans, it has helped some. While the Senate primaries are at the top of the ballot, there are also four contested House primaries. Democrats are holding Congressional primaries in the 2nd Congressional District (most of New Orleans and the Westbank) and 4th Congressional District (northwest Louisiana). Republican primaries are in the 3rd Congressional District (“Bayou country” between New Iberia and St Bernard Parish) and 5th Congressional District (northeast and central Louisiana). When we looked at the parishes where the Democratic Congressional primaries are being held, we noticed that 0.09% of Democrats/Independents early voted, which is actually LESS than the statewide average of 0.12%. If we look at the parishes where Republican Congressional primaries are being held, we find that 0.48% have early voted, compared to a statewide average of 0.4%.
Finally, there are a couple of things about early voting that need to be noted: (1) early voting is usually heaviest on the first and last days, and we are therefore expecting the volume of early voting during the week to plummet; (2) we are making somewhat of a big deal about the early vote volume, because when the Legislature essentially established “no fault” early voting several years ago, more and more people are choosing to early vote, so a constituemcy of 5-15% of the vote is something a politician would be foolish to ignore – especially in a closely contested race; (3) these numbers are the ones that are typically reported on the TV screen several minutes after polls close at 8 PM.
John is a political consultant and blogger with JMC Enterprises with expertise in poll sample development and analysis, development of targeted voter files for phone canvassing or mail outs, campaign strategy and demographic consulting, among other things. See his site at WinWithJMC.com for more information.