St. Tammany sees most early voting in state

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by Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

wwltv.com

Posted on October 26, 2010 at 6:37 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- Early voting wrapped up Tuesday afternoon with roughly 125,000 Louisiana voters casting early ballots, and it could spell good news for Republican candidates.

The state's single most popular early voting spot was inside the St. Tammany Parish Registrar of Voters Office in Covington.

"We've been voting approximately 650 per day here in this office," said St. Tammany Registrar of Voters Dwayne Wall. "It is easy. They can come in, present their identification. We haven't had long lines throughout the whole period."

Election Demographer Greg Rigamer of GCR & Associates said it's not surprising that St. Tammany Parish would have a large number of early voters, because St. Tammany is Louisiana's most Republican parish.

"What we always see is that an angry voter is more active than a supportive voter," Rigamer said, "and I think the Republicans are expressing a lot of interest in this race. Early voting throughout the state demonstrates this."

According to Rigamer's numbers, Republicans make up 26 percent of all registered voters in Louisiana, yet in the current early voting session, Republicans cast 42 percent of all votes. Black voters, which are typically core Democratic supporters, make up 30 percent of all registered voters; yet in the current early voting session, blacks have only cast 20 percent of all votes.

Early votes, according to Rigamer, typically make up 10 percent to 12 percent of the total vote, but that number is trending up.

"I think it will progressively become more popular, and more of a standard for all communities," Rigamer said.

Nationally, the trend is towards more early voting, both in more locations and for longer durations. Some states run early voting periods for two weeks or even a month. Currently, Louisiana runs a seven day early voting period beginning 14 days before election day.

"It's a whole new world of campaigning based on the early voting trends that are happening today," Greg Buisson said. Buisson runs political campaigns through his company, Buisson Creative Strategies.

The unwritten rules for how to time a political campaign were established over decades, but according to Buisson, early votes changes those rules.

"It's changing the way candidates have to campaign," Buisson said. "It's changing the timing of when you drop messages and when you deliver messages to voters."

Because early voting spreads out election day, Buisson said, campaigns must now have "more money, more manpower and multiple messages."

Buisson agreed that a higher percentage of people will early in coming elections, but according to Rigamer, early voting isn't bringing new voters to the polls. He said it's simply spreading out how people vote.

"Clearly, there is an effort to promote citizen participation, so early voting, mail-in voting, anything that will make it easier, I think you will see it explored," Rigamer said.

 

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