This week is early voting for runoff elections for statewide and local political offices. From Nov. 2 to Nov. 9, Louisianans will have the chance to go out and vote before the actual runoff date of Nov. 16. Being so, this is the last time that I can ramble on about elections until the 2020 succulence of national politics comes into play.
I won’t be making any last-ditch efforts to change anyone’s vote or mind. I think that everyone has firmly decided at this point and all that is left to do is actually cast a decisive vote for a candidate. Instead, in this article I want to look at voting opportunities we have in Louisiana as a whole.
To start with, I would like to talk about student options to voting. For students, there is an option to vote by mail if you are living on a campus that is outside of your parish of registration. To do this, you must get approval by applying to your registrar of voters using the general application form provided on the Louisiana Secretary of State (LSOS) website.
Thankfully, applying to mail in your ballot isn’t limited to students. People 65 and older, people that are involuntarily incarcerated, people taking a temporary absence from their parish of registration, those who have jury duty the day of the election and especially those working offshore have the chance to cast their choice via the postal service as well.
Of course, mail-in ballots apply only on election day; however, as I mentioned before, Louisiana allows early voting in its local, state and federal elections. In fact, at the time this article is published, Louisiana will be in a period of early voting and will continue to remain so until Nov. 9.
Early voting is done at your registrar of voters or a designated voting station in the parish where you reside and can be done at any time between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. For a full week (except Sunday) there is a chance to pick a time to vote that is most convenient for you.
From my experience of early voting, there are rarely any lines or commotion when voting, since people can vote on different days of their choosing and not everyone is bottlenecked together in one specific day. This makes it very fast and efficient.
Before you can vote, though, you’ll notice I kept saying “parish you are registered in” and that is because you must have registered to vote in the parish you reside in thirty days before election day (or twenty days if you register online). Louisiana does not have same-day voting, and if you register after the deadline you must wait until the next election to vote.
Registering to vote can be done online through the Geaux Vote website or mobile app, in person at the registrar of voters in the parish you plan on voting in or by mail. Remember when you register to have your license number and social security number handy.
After you have registered to vote and are getting ready for election day, the LSOS kindly puts up a sample ballot on their website that is specific to you, so you know exactly what you will face when you enter the voting booth and you can reference what you have already picked.
I find this is really helpful when researching amendments for the Constitution that contain a lot of legalese I forget five seconds after I look away from it. With the sample ballot, I can research candidates and legislation, decide what I want and, if I go vote and can’t remember exactly what it all means, I can rely on my past self for guidance.
There are many ways you can get around to exercising your right to vote in Louisiana, even if it is not the most progressive state. For example, we do not have universal mail-in ballots or automatic registration upon reaching eighteen or same-day registration, but we do have early voting (which New York state only implemented this year), online registration (which few states have) and some types of mail-in voting.
We could do better in terms of making it easier to vote, but the way I see it, it could be so much worse, and “get-out-the-vote” groups only make registering and guiding others to the polls that much easier.