BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Monday that he expects only about half of Louisiana's 2.9 million registered voters to cast ballots for the Nov. 4 election, despite a hard-fought U.S. Senate race blanketing the airwaves.
Louisiana's top elections official, Schedler predicted voter turnout between 45 percent and 50 percent. That's above the last midterm congressional election, but still well below the 68 percent of voters who showed up at the polls for the 2012 presidential election.
He based his projection to the Press Club of Baton Rouge on turnout in the state's early voting period, which began Oct. 21 and runs through Tuesday. About 30,000 people per day have been casting their ballots early — compared to 50,000 per day two years ago and fewer than 18,000 daily for the last midterm election.
At the top of the list of elections is the Senate race between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, her main Republican challenger Bill Cassidy and GOP tea-party favorite Rob Maness, along with several hotly contested congressional races. Landrieu is targeted by Republicans in their effort to pick up six Senate seats and retake control of the chamber.
Turnout in early voting so far doesn't necessarily appear to give anyone in the Senate race a distinct advantage. Schedler said the strongest turnout has been in the Baton Rouge area, where Cassidy lives, and the New Orleans area, Landrieu's home base of support.
About 66 percent of early voters so far have been white, while 31 percent have been black, proportional to their makeup among registered voters, according to data from Schedler's office.
The Senate race is expected to be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff. If no one wins a majority of the vote next week, the runoff is set.
Besides the congressional elections, voters face a list of proposed constitutional changes and local elections ranging from school board seats to judgeships. More than 2,400 offices are on ballots statewide, the most Louisiana has seen in at least two decades, Schedler said.
"We expect big crowds on Nov. 4. Everybody's trying to go vote before work, at lunch and after work. Be patient," he urged voters.
Schedler said the 14 constitutional amendments are too large a number for voters to sift through in the voting booth, and he suggested lawmakers should consider putting limits on the number of amendments that can appear on a ballot.
"We've got to do something about that. The size of this ballot is ridiculous, quite frankly," he said.