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Early Voting in Governor's Race Hints at Trouble for Edwards

Jessica Rosgaard

77,000 Louisianans made their way to the polls on Saturday, the first day of early voting in the October 12 election. That's the second highest first-day turnout for early voting ever and more than double the turnout on the same day in the last governor's race.

On this week's Capitol Access, pollster John Couvillon of JMC Analytics and Polling discusses how early voting is shaping elections across the state.

Q: The only time we've seen a larger turnout on day one of early voting was in 2016 during the presidential race. What are some factors that are making early turnouts so high in this race?

The first is that early voting is gradually becoming more popular across Louisiana. The second thing was when the LSU vs. Florida game would be scheduled on October 12th. The third thing which I'm now coming to think is the case, is more of an external factor, which I saw happen in the 2018 midterms as well. What's going on nationally in this case, the impeachment discussions by the Democrats in the house is stirring up Republican turnout back here in Louisiana, to the Republicans' benefit.

Q: Let's dig into the numbers a little bit deeper. You wrote a recap of the day-one stats on Sunday. In it, you talked about how the racial and party breakdown of those early voters could, and probably should, change the way we look at polling and our idea of who's winning this race...

There are certain assumptions which go into the proper development of a poll's sample. The biggest assumption, of course, is what percent of the poll sample needs to be African-American. We have been using a 29 percent African American sample, and by the way, 29 percent was the proportion of the first day early voting in 2015 that was African American. After the first day this year it was 25 percent that has a direct impact on the share of the vote that governor Edwards will get.

Q: You released a poll last week that showed Edwards at 48 percent-- 2 percent shy of the 50 percent he would need in the primary to win the race outright. How would that change if the demographics that we saw on Saturday are a more accurate representation of the electorate?

If that were the case, a 25 percent African American electorate rather than 28 percent or 29 percent would put governor Edwards more towards the low to mid-4os, in other words, about 44, 45 percent. Losing that [percentage] on the basis of reduced minority intensity is something that he can ill afford to have as an incumbent governor.

Q: So early voting is clearly growing in popularity in the state and you would imagine that candidates and their campaigns are noticing this and planning around it. Have you seen this idea of early voting shaping the way that these politicians campaign?

Oh, absolutely. You now have to think of election day as 14 election days. Up until about a decade ago, only 3 to 5 percent of the vote was cast absentee or early. Now you're talking about 20 or even 30 precent being cast before election day. That certainly shapes your behavior in terms of how and when you want to reach the voters.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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