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Ahead of Election Day, almost a million Louisiana voters have already cast their ballots

(The Center Square) – Though Election Day is next Tuesday, almost a million Louisiana voters have already cast their ballots.

Following Tuesday night, which marked the end of the in-person early voting period, 964,181 state residents had voted. That total includes in-person votes and absentee mail-in ballots and is almost double the previous record set during the 2016 presidential election.

“A pandemic or two hurricanes did not prevent nearly one million Louisianians from exercising their right to vote during early voting,” Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said. “Louisiana voters are energized and eager to make their voices heard in critical elections from the presidency down to local races. It is my strong desire to see 2020 set the record for Louisiana’s highest turnout.”

As of Wednesday morning, more than 73 million Americans had voted in this year’s presidential election, which is about 53 percent of the total votes cast in the 2016 federal election, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

“The numbers are stunning,” Michael McDonald, the University of Florida professor who leads the Elections Project, wrote in a recent analysis. “The pace of some states’ early voting is such that with almost certainty states will begin surpassing their total 2016 vote this week.”

Ardoin’s office says about 31 percent of Louisianans eligible to vote, and about 46 percent of those expected to vote, already have done so.

John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge-based data analyst and political consultant, says that while heavy early turnout may “incrementally benefit” overall turnout, it is also indicative of “front loading” of Election Day turnout as early voting grows more popular.

“Not only did the volume of early voters set daily records, but early voting turnout itself has been noticeably and consistently more Democratic,” Couvillion says in a new analysis.

In 2016, the racial composition of the early vote was 70 percent white and 27 percent black and 44 percent Democratic and 39 percent Republican, he says. As of Tuesday night, the racial breakdown was 65 percent/30 percent white/black and 44 percent/37 percent Democratic/Republican.

About 15 percent of the early vote came by mail, and Couvillon projects almost 41,000 additional mail-in votes will come in over the coming days. He predicts early voting as a percentage of the final vote will go from 26 percent of the total in 2016 to 45 percent this year.

David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for the Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.