NEW ORLEANS — Early voting begins Friday across Louisiana for the Nov. 3 election, with the hotly-contested presidential election at the top of a ballot which includes several important local races and issues as well.
An expanded 10-day early voting period begins Oct. 16 and continues through Oct. 27 (except Sundays). Early voting will be available from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. The extra hours and days were added under the emergency election plan due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Early voting has grown in popularity in recent years and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin expects early turnout this year to exceed previous numbers, both because of high interest in the presidential election and concerns over COVID-19.
“In the gubernatorial election last year, it amounted to 30 percent of our entire election participation. And so I suspect it'll be that or more this time,” Ardoin said.
In Orleans Parish, a new early voting location will be set up at the Smoothie King Center, to allow for social distancing and COVID-19 protocols. That’s in addition to the traditional early voting sites at City Hall (Room #1W24), the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan St., the Voting Machine Warehouse, 8870 Chef Menteur Hwy. and the Lake Vista Community Center, 6500 Spanish Fort Blvd.
Jefferson Parish early voting locations are: the Joseph Yenni building, 1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. (Room 502), the Charles Odom Building, 501 West Bank Expressway (Suite C-2), 408 Minor St. in Kenner, and the Grand Isle Multiplex.
St. Tammany locations are the Justice Center parking garage in Covington, the Towers Building, 520 Old Spanish Trail, Slidell; and the St. Tammany Parish Administrative Complex, 21490 Koop Dr., Mandeville.
Just like during this past summer’s elections, Ardoin said that social distancing and sanitizing protocols will be followed during early voting.
“All machines are going to be wiped down between each voter, every pen, every pencil,” he said. “Everything that's touched is going to be wiped down in between voters, which of course also takes more time. And so we ask voters again to be patient.”
In addition to the presidential race, Louisiana voters will cast a ballot for U.S. Senate and the state’s six congressional districts. Incumbent Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, is facing 14 challengers in his bid for a second term. Most of those candidates are political novices or lack strong financial resources, although Cassidy does face a vigorous campaign from Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, a Democrat. Perkins has earned the endorsement of the previous holder of the Senate seat, Mary Landrieu.
All of Louisiana’s congressional seats are on the ballot as well, with incumbents Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Cedric Richmond and Rep. Garret Graves seeking re-election.
The biggest-ticket race in Orleans Parish is for District Attorney, with four candidates running to succeed Leon Cannizzaro. They are: former judges Arthur Hunter, Keva Landrum and Morris Reed as well as City Councilman Jason Williams.
Voters in other local parishes will also see races for District Attorney, including St. Tammany/Washington, Lafourche and Plaquemines Parishes.
There are also dozens of judgeship races on the local ballot. In Orleans Parish that includes for criminal, civil, juvenile and municipal and traffic courts.
There are two judicial races on the ballot on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish. Chick Foret and Jerry Smith are vying for the Division H seat on the 24th Judicial District Court bench, while Chris Cox and Pat Rooney are running for the Division B seat.
There is also a race for state Supreme Court on the ballot for Orleans Parish voters. They will decide on a replacement for retiring Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. Four candidates – Sandra Cabrina Jenkins, Piper Griffin and Terri Love - are running for that seat.
Orleans Parish voters will also cast ballots for school board seats.
Regionally, there is a race for a seat on the Public Service Commission, with incumbent Eric Skrmetta facing six challengers.
Voters statewide will consider seven constitutional amendments. The Public Affairs Research Council has an analysis of each amendment here.
In all local parishes, voters will decide on a local option proposition that would permit sports wagering in parishes where a majority of voters say “yes.”
This vote would legalize betting on sports and allow the state and local governments to regulate and tax it.
Finally, voters in unincorporated areas of Jefferson Parish will decide whether to renew a 0.5-mill property tax dedicated to the Office of Inspector General and the Ethics and Compliance Commission. The 10-year tax, which would generate $1.5 million in the first year, expires at the end of 2021.