Interesting turnout figures in Louisiana

A couple of interesting notes about Louisiana. The state is considered to be safe presidential territory for the Republicans, with Pollster currently reporting McCain up 13 points. Democratic incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu, on the other hand, has a fairly strong lead over Republican challenger John Kennedy.

So, what do the voting numbers say? Louisiana has no-excuse in-person early voting, and it appears to be taking off. In 2004, just 6.5% of the voters cast their ballots early. This year, more than 260,000 voters—9%— have so far voted. We’ve had anecdotal reports of lines up to five hours in the state, which has relatively limited provision of early voting locations (particularly in the large cities).

Despite some 1.5 million of Louisiana’s 2.9 million registered voters being affiliated with the Democrats, this party has a hard time in a state where many voters do not vote along party lines. African-American voters, however, are as reliably Democratic as in other parts of the country, and the Party has targeted its registration drive at this community. At the start of October, black voters comprised 30% of registered voters in the state, whites 65% (exactly the same proportion as their populations).

On the other hand, the impact of Hurricane Katrina introduces a further uncertainty into the vote: the exodus into neighboring states disproportionately affected African-Americans. In a state where turnout is crucial, the Landrieu campaign was maintaining an understandably conservative position in its African-American turnout models—but early voting returns give them cause for optimism. 95,000, or 36%, of the early voters are African-American, while just 161,603, or 55%, are white.

Let’s be clear: though records are being broken, early voting turnout is still likely to be comparatively low in this state. It’s much more difficult to extrapolate broad trends than in a big early voting state like North Carolina or Nevada. Certainly, this is not reason to consider conservative Louisiana unsafe for McCain. Still, it is an interesting state to watch.