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Voting Closes In Louisiana With Big Turnout, Smaller-Than-Feared Lines

Tegan Wendland
All quiet outside St. Dominic School in Lakeview. Nov. 3, 2020.

Election Day voting in Louisiana came to a close at 8 p.m. with no reports of major issues that were expected as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Hurricane Zeta damage.

Voting has been “very smooth across the state,” according to Tyler Brey, press secretary for the Louisiana Secretary of State. Brey said the government projected a turnout of 1.2 million voters. At 8 p.m., he could not confirm if actual numbers exceeded or fell below that projection.

Orleans Parish Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell said that aside from young residents who had recently reached voting age, a lot of first-time voters he spoke to were elderly New Orleanians.

In East Baton Rouge, Fred Sliman, public information officer for the area’s clerk of court, said a large turnout for early voting “translated to a very manageable election day.” Sliman said the voting lines were “brisk and steady,” and that he had not received any reports of long waits.

In Jefferson Parish, Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer projected that 70 percent of all residents who were registered to vote actually voted this year. That number includes early voters, some of whom had to wait for several hours to cast their votes last month. Gegenheimer said that was because early voters only had three locations.

Some precincts in Cado Parish saw wait times of between two and three hours, with voters remaining in line at three voting locations after 8 p.m. when polls closed, said Dianne Doughty, chief deputy to the clerk of court. Doughty explained that those precincts have higher numbers of voters.

Everyone said a three-minute voting time limit was enforced, but not strongly.

“Nobody’s going to throw anybody out if they go over three minutes, but they might give a friendly reminder,” said Sliman, who added that the Clerk of Court’s offices hadn’t received any reports of voters taking an excessively long time.

Voters continued to trickle into New Orleans voting places until they closed Tuesday.

Despite the anticipation of long lines and other challenges associated with the global pandemic, Election Day voting seemed to go smoothly across the city.

Voters said they were mobilized not only by the contentious presidential election but by down-ballot issues as well, including the local race for district attorney and proposed constitutional amendments.

In Lakeview, Cole Parsons cast his ballot during the last hour of voting, saying he was eager to vote “yes” for Amendment 1, which would add an article to the Lousiana Constitution that says the Constitution will not include a right to abortion or the funding of abortion. He said he was nervous about the election and “hoping for unity moving forward.”

Many voters said they were anxious.

In the Milan neighborhood, Vanessa Bray brought her son along to cast their ballots at Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep.

“I just got off work and came straight here to vote,” she said, noting that there were no lines and it went off without a hitch.

“I voted for Biden,” Bray said. “I’m feeling very anxious for it to be over it, and I’m praying for the best.”

In Mid City, Dwayne and Lovella Newman cast their ballots at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on North Dorgenois, just like they always do.

“We vote for everything,” Lovella Newman said.

“I was worried it would be crowded, but it wasn’t,” Dwayne Newman said.

He called the presidential election contentious and said they felt it was especially important to vote this year.

“I wish I could have voted a thousand more times.”

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.
Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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