(AP) – Louisiana’s lone U.S. Senate race features Republican incumbent John Kennedy, who is seeking a second term. The former state treasurer, who has mostly provided a safe Senate vote for Republicans and been a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, faces a crowded field of 12 challengers.
Among them are Democrats Luke Mixon, a commercial airline pilot endorsed by Gov. John Bel Edwards; and Gary Chambers Jr., who drew national attention earlier this year for an online ad that shows him smoking marijuana. However, it has been 14 years since Louisiana voters have elected a Democratic U.S. senator. Kennedy has raised an astounding $36 million in his reelection bid — 10 times as much as his Democratic challengers combined.
Louisiana’s seats in the U.S. House are viewed as safe for the incumbents, including Minority Whip Steve Scalise. All incumbents are running for reelection. Republicans hold five of the six seats.
Louisiana’s most closely watched race is for the 3rd Congressional District where GOP Rep. Clay Higgins is seeking a fourth term. The former sheriff’s deputy faces a challenge from fellow Republican Holden Hoggatt, a prosecutor from Lafayette who has drawn bipartisan support from Higgins’ critics.
In addition, voters will have eight constitutional amendments to consider on the November ballot, including removing language that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polls close at 8 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET).
HOW LOUISIANA VOTES
Some races could be decided Nov. 8 but some likely won’t, due to the state’s unique “jungle” primary. Under this system all candidates, regardless of party, run against each other on the same ballot. If no one candidate tops 50% in that primary, the top two vote-getters advance to a runoff in December.
Most of Louisiana has voted in person on Election Day. But the percentage who vote early has been steadily increasing, topping 45% in 2020. Most of those early votes are cast in person, though the mail-in vote has been steadily increasing.
The state has placed a number of restrictions on mail-in voting. People can vote absentee if they are unable to vote in person on Election Day, but an excuse is required. Permanent absentee status is available to the elderly and the permanently disabled. Notary and/or witness signature is required with a returned mail/absentee ballot. In 2020, about 8% of the votes came through mail-in ballots.
Democrats tend to do well in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but Louisiana is considered a red state. In both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the Democratic candidate won only 10 of the state’s 64 parishes. Trump won the state with 58% of the vote in both contests.
The AP will count votes and declare winners in 18 contests in Louisiana, including a U.S. Senate race, five U.S. House races and eight state constitutional amendments.
The AP does not make projections or name apparent or likely winners. The AP will make a call only when it becomes clear that a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory. Should a candidate declare victory before the AP makes a call, we will cover newsworthy events but will note that the AP has not declared a winner and will make clear why we believe the race is too close or early to call.
The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome. In Louisiana, a candidate or party may request the recount of absentee and early voting ballots by filing a written request by the end of the fourth day following an election.
Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?
A: State legislation in 2021 allowed all parishes to process absentee ballots before the election; pre-election processing was previously limited to parishes with 1,000 or more absentee ballots. That should speed up the count on election night.
Another piece of legislation that year required all parish election offices to remain open until all precinct results, absentee and early results have been submitted. Another created a Voting System Commission and required that any new voting system procured by the secretary of state follow certain requirements, including that voting system servers be located in the state and that the system produce auditable, voter-verified paper records.
Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?
A: Counting of most races is usually completed the night of the election or very early the next morning, although some races may remain uncalled if the margin is too close. In the November 2020 election, the AP finished counting all votes early the following evening.
Q: WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS WITH EARLY RETURNS?
A: More Democrats than Republicans have tended to vote early in the past. In the 2020 election, Biden won 12 Louisiana parishes judging by just the early vote, but just 10 based on the final/total vote. Because early votes are reported shortly after polls close, those results may provide a skewed view of what the final tally will look like. That said, recent voting patterns suggest more Republicans are taking to early voting and the Democratic advantage in that tally may be waning.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TUESDAY?
A: The Dec. 10 runoff will decide races where no single candidate gained more than 50% of the vote.