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Early voting points to large GOP down ballot LA gains

Early voting in Louisiana for the general election this Saturday has concluded, and has given some hints about what may lay ahead – which looks redder and redder.

Turnout is up 12 percent over the period four years ago, but that doesn’t indicate a massive increase in overall turnout to come in a few days. As voters have become more familiar with the “no-fault” brand of early voting, more take advantage of it. In fact, given a low-profile cakewalk governor’s race for Gov. Bobby Jindal’s incredibly likely reelection without going to a runoff, overall turnout likely will be less than last time. This favors challengers down the ballot, as those who oppose incumbents are easier to activate into voting while voters less likely to show tend to go along with known names.

Comparisons of different kinds of voters prove more helpful, although they are a bit imprecise in using raw numbers rather than percentage figures since category populations change slightly over time. But even with raw numbers, it should be clear that the ratio of black to white voters in 2011 tells a different story than in 2008. Looking at a large parish with registrations split almost evenly between the two races, in Caddo in 2008 only about 1.1 whites for every black voted early in a high-stimulus election for blacks and Democrats with now-Pres. Barack Obama’s electors on the ballot, while in 2011 the ratio is about 2.5 to 1. In Orleans, with a heavy black majority, this year it is about one-half to one, while in 2008 it was about 0.3 to 1. Statewide, the figures are then 1.7 to 1 and now 3.5 to 1. With over twice as many whites relative to blacks voting early, this signals the black share of the electorate will be smaller than usual and favors Republicans and non-black candidates in the general election.

In partisan terms, while there has been a steady erosion of Democrats redounding to Republicans and no-party registrants over the past four years, the raw numbers show such dramatic changes that it’s hard not to conclude total turnout will end up favoring Republican candidates. While the ratio of Democrat-to-Republican early voter in 2008 was about 2:1, this year it has dropped to less than 1.5:1. As with race, a paucity of competitive high-profile Democrats for statewide offices looks likely to fail to excite their party’s voters, favoring Republican candidates.

The GOP entered this election cycle with enthusiasm borne of increasing the number of offices they held in the state at both the national and state levels, through elections and switches, and their continuing surge in registrations relative to Democrats. These early voting numbers show the optimism is warranted, and perhaps even understated. That means, besides keeping all seven statewide executive offices in the fold (obviously without the Democrats putting up a quality candidate for any of them), gains in the Legislature and in local contests may exceed what Republicans had envisioned.

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