‘Huge’ election turnout expected

High turnout is expected for Tuesday’s election and that could mean long lines at polling places, Secretary of State Tom Schedler said Monday.

“We are anticipating a huge turnout,” Schedler told the Baton Rouge Press Club. “I would peg it around 70 or 71 percent, about 3 or 4 percent higher than in 2008.”

Louisiana has just slightly more than 2.9 million registered voters, he said.

Approximately 345,000 voters voted early, Schedler said.

The expected high turnout could lead to lengthy waits at voting precincts, he said.

Because all voters who are in line when the polls close at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote, people in some parts of the state could still be voting at 9:30 p.m. or 10 p.m., Schedler said.

“In urban areas, waiting for an hour-and-a-half is realistic, maybe even a little longer,” he said.

Schedler encouraged voters to do their homework and research issues on the ballot so that they won’t dally at the polls.

A hotly contested presidential election as well as locally intense races in Baton Rouge and in other places will contribute to the higher turnout, he said, adding that there is no formula to predict turnout.

“It’s more of a gut call,” he said.

Schedler said he had extended the deadline by one day for a military ballot to be received to Wednesday.

“A lot of that mail goes through New York” and other areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, Schedler said.

The state’s most-watched congressional race is the 3rd Congressional District in the southwestern part of the state as two Republican incumbents face off against each other.

Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, were forced to run against each other when their districts were combined after the lines were redrawn in light of the 2010 U.S. Census. Louisiana lost a congressional seat due to a lack of population growth.

Three other candidates are in the race: Democrat Ron Richard, Republican Bryan Barrilleaux and Libertarian Jim Stark.

In the Baton Rouge area, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, faces two little-funded opponents for the 6th Congressional District seat in Libertarian Rufus Craig and no-party candidate Richard “RPT” Torregano.

The New Orleans-based 2nd Congressional District now stretches into much of northern Baton Rouge and U.S. Rep Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans faces four little-funded candidates: Gary Landrieu, a Democrat; Caleb Trotter, a Libertarian political newcomer; and Josue Larose, a Republican who lists a New Orleans address but mailed in his qualifying papers from Florida and has not responded to numerous phone messages.

Five candidates are running to replace Public Service Commissioner Jimmy Field, who represented much of the Baton Rouge and Lafayette area and is retiring.

Republicans Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, Erich Ponti and Sarah Holliday, both of Baton Rouge, will face Democrat Forest Wright of New Orelans and no-party candidate Greg Gaubert of Thibodaux for the seat on the five-person commission.

Eight candidates are in the race for the Louisiana Supreme Court District 5, which includes the parishes of East and West Baton Rouge, East and West Feliciana, Livingston, Ascension, Iberville and Pointe Coupee.

The race includes five Republicans, two Democrats and one no-party candidate.

John Michael Guidry has the backing of the state’s Democratic Party, while the the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish is supporting two candidates — Judge Toni Higginbotham, of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, and Judge Tim Kelley, of the 19th Judicial District Court.

In Baton Rouge, an intense mayor’s contest is on the ballot. Two-term incumbent Kip Holden is facing a challenge from former ally Metro Councilman Mike Walker.

Crime has been a central issue in the campaign, with Walker claiming Holden hasn’t done enough and Holden saying he has done more than anyone before him.

Two other candidates, businessman Gordon Mese and attorney Steve Myers, are in the race. Both are running as no-party candidates.

Six of the 12 Metro Council seats are up for election; the other six are unopposed.

In Ascension Parish, voters will decide whether to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay for roads in the unincorporated parts of the parish.

St. Helena Parish voters, meanwhile, will decide whether to approve two property taxes to fund the troubled school system. If passed, the taxes would help fund school improvement and school system employee salaries and benefits.

The school system has tried three times in the last five years to pass a tax, but voters have it rejected each time.

Voters in Lafayette will decide whether to renew two property taxes for police and firefighter salaries along with parishwide taxes for drainage work, the school system, the parish library system and the Lafayette Regional Airport.

Voters in metro New Orleans will make decisions today that will determine several judgeships and the makeup of the New Orleans City Council and Orleans Parish School Board, along with a number of propositions, including whether drivers will continue to pay a toll to cross the Crescent City Connection.

Several propositions are also on the ballot in New Orleans and the metro area. Voters in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes will decide whether to keep the $1 toll — 40 cents with a tag — on the Crescent City Connection.

Orleans Parish voters will decide whether to extend a 6.07-mill property tax for levees and hurricane flood protection for 30 years.