By Juanice Gray, Jgray@natchitochestimes.com, 318-352-3618 ext. 218
The vote is on!
Statewide, early voting is up a whopping 58% compared to the first two days in 2016. That information comes from the Secretary of State’s office, the entity charged with overseeing the state’s election process. In 2016, there were 5,381 total early voting ballots cast in Natchitoches Parish according to Secretary of State records. Donald Trump/Mike Pence received 2882, or 54%, of those votes and Hillary Clinton/Timothy Kaine got 2,342, or 44%.
In the first three days of early voting four years later, increased voter interest is readily apparent. In three days, Oct. 16, 17 and 19, there were 1,839 ballots cast. That is more than one-third the number of votes, early and election day totals, in 2016.
Voters in most Louisiana parishes have seen long lines at election stations, including Natchitoches. Longer lines and wait times of about 20-30 minutes are not deterring voters.
The Presidential election on the ballot, as well as US Senator, US Representative, City Judge, several constable and Justice of the Peace races and the amendments and propositions motivate people to exercise their right to vote.
Even the amendments, with subject matter from abortion to the oil and gas industry, as well as the sports betting proposition, all touch home on some level and are increasing interest and sending voters to the polls. Statistics show the increased vote will also have a greater impact on local races.
About 210,000 absentee mail ballots have been requested statewide ahead of the Oct. 30 deadline. A total of 102,431 ballots already have been cast Oct. 16-17, and accepted, by parish registrars across the state. That’s almost three times the 35,186 votes cast over the same two-day period in 2016 and more than 63,016 for the entire early voting period in 2016.
In the last Presidential election, there were 25,400 qualified voters in Natchitoches Parish and a 66.5% turnout. If early voting is a precursor to Election Day voting, turnout could exceed those numbers.
Early voting totals could account for about 35% of the ballots cast in this election. That would be up from about 26% in 2016.
Clerk of Court David Stamey said there are approximately 24,000 qualified voters this election cycle. It would take a total 15,961 votes to surpass the 2016 election turnout.
Polling stations close at 7 p.m. during early voting that continues through Oct. 27. Anyone in line then will be allowed to vote.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Bring a photo ID.