Turnout in East Baton Rouge high on first day of early voting; governor, St. George on ballot

4 months ago The Advocate 0

The earliest of early voters turned out in droves Saturday, leading to longer-than-expected lines at the polls. Many had one sentiment in-mind: “I wanted to get it over with.”

The hotly contested gubernatorial race and the vote to incorporate the proposed city of St. George were at the top of voters minds as they cast their ballots at one of five early voting locations parish-wide. 

“The first day of early voting doesn’t always start out tremendously busy, but I think Saturday may be an exception,” said Steve Raborn, the city-parish’s registrar of voters. “It could easily be between three and four thousand voters.”

If it reaches the higher end of that range, that would be nearly twice the number of voters who turned out for Oct. 2015 gubernatorial race. The first day of early voting in that election saw 2,163 voters come out to cast their votes, Raborn said.

Election Day falls on Oct. 12 —the same day as LSU’s homecoming game against the University of Florida. That motivated voters like Kenya Warren Hollins, 30, to vote early, just in case she’s “a little too busy partying” on game day.

Early voting begins Saturday for statewide, local races

Early voting opens Saturday for the Oct. 12 general election primary. Ballots can be cast at any of five locations in East Baton Rouge Parish …

Senate District 16 candidate Beverly Brooks Thomas served jambalaya and soft drinks at a election tail-gate near City Hall. She said she was “a little concerned” about voters in her south Baton Rouge district turning out on game day. 

“What do you do in Baton Rouge when something big happens? You throw a party,” Thompson said. 

Voting at City Hall got off to rough start Saturday morning with a handful of the main thoroughfares downtown closed off with police vehicles and traffic barriers for the St. Jude walk and run. Roads reopened by mid-day, but that still “disturbed” some voters.

“To drive up and see cops saying you can’t go anywhere near city hall unless you drive around side streets is not a good indication of how the city supports voting,” said James Catano. 

A number of voters expressed excitement at the prospect of voting for the incorporation of the city of St. George after a petition to get the issue on the ballot four years ago narrowly failed. 

“It’s time. It’s time for it to finally be put to a vote and let the people who live there decide what they want to do,” said Chris Fetters, 45. “Let us make our own decision.”

Another voter, Marie Duncan, 63, said she’s eager to get the St. George vote behind her.  “I just want to know where I’m going to be living,” Duncan said, adding that she and her husband likely canceled each others votes on the issue. 

Michael Miller, 74, said statements made recently by local business leaders helped sway him against the St. George proposition. “It was a 55-45 choice,” Miller said. 

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Voters said lines at the State Archives and the Coursey Fire Stations were longer than they expected, taking about 30 to 45 minutes, though Raborn said that’s expected for the first day.

“It usually takes a few minutes to get into a groove,” Raborn said. “There’s nothing like trial by fire.”

Still, that didn’t discourage voters like Jeanette Moore-Coleman, 62, to wait it out in order to cast a ballot. 

“We go to concerts and wait in long lines. We go to football games and wait in long lines, so why not do something important and wait in long lines to vote,” Moore-Coleman said.