Louisiana opens early voting Friday in presidential election

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Voters line up outside to cast ballots in the general election at the Henrico County general registrar’s office in Henrico County, Va., Friday, Sept. 18, 2020, on the first day of the state’s 45-day early voting period. (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s early voting period for the Nov. 3 presidential and congressional election opens Friday, with a federal judge forcing the state to add a few extra days and longer hours because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Top of the ballot is the presidential contest between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden. Louisiana’s eight electoral votes are up for grabs.

Beyond the main contenders, 11 others are in the competition, including libertarian and socialist candidates and hip hop musician Kanye West running on the “Birthday Party” ticket. Trump won Louisiana easily in 2016.

After the attention-grabbing presidential race, Louisiana also has a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot, six U.S. House seats, a statewide referendum on sports gambling, seven constitutional amendments, judges’ jobs and other municipal elections.

In any race where no candidate tops 50% of the vote, the leading two vote-getters will face each other in a Dec. 5 runoff. That doesn’t apply for the presidential contest.

A federal judge required Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to expand Louisiana’s early voting period for the election from the usual seven days to 10 days and add an hour of voting time each day because of the coronavirus outbreak. The judge also ordered an expansion of mail-in voting.

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U.S. SENATE RACE

Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a doctor from Baton Rouge, faces 14 opponents seeking to keep him from a second term. But Cassidy has the benefits of incumbency, the backing of Trump and millions more in campaign cash than any of his challengers. His advertising has dwarfed that of any of his competitors.

His chief Democratic opponent is Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, who announced his campaign in July, giving him a short time to raise funds and introduce himself statewide. Still, Democrats were excited about the mayor with a West Point education, Harvard law degree and military service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he won the backing of former President Barack Obama.

Cassidy remains favored to win reelection in the deep red state, but the dynamics of the race could change if he’s forced into a December runoff.

MORE CONGRESSIONAL RACES

Five of Louisiana’s incumbent U.S. House members are running for re-election: Republican Reps. Steve Scalise in the 1st District, Clay Higgins in the 3rd District, Mike Johnson in the 4th District and Garret Graves in the 6th District and Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond in the 2nd District. All have multiple challengers on the ballot, though few have well-funded opponents.

The most heavily contested congressional race is for Louisiana’s 5th District seat representing northeast and central Louisiana. Republican incumbent Ralph Abraham decided against running for reelection after losing the governor’s race last year. Nine candidates are vying for the position.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Seven constitutional amendments are on the ballot, including one to declare that abortion rights are not protected by the Louisiana Constitution. The nonpartisan Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana has released its yearly online guide to the proposals.

In addition, voters will decide whether to legalize sports betting in individual parishes. The wagering only will be allowed in parishes where a majority of those casting ballots in the election agree to it.

OTHER RACES

Voters in New Orleans and in northeast Louisiana will choose new associate Supreme Court justices, while voters across north Louisiana and in the southeastern end of the state will choose their utility regulators who sit on the five-member Public Service Commission.

District and appeals court judgeships and district attorney jobs around the state also are on the ballot, along with mayors races and other local elected positions and propositions.

WHERE TO VOTE

Early voting runs daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27, except on Sundays, at parish registrar of voters’ offices and other locations. The secretary of state’s office has a complete list of early voting sites online or through its GeauxVote mobile app.

Some locations may have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic and in response to the damage of Hurricanes Laura and Delta in southwestern Louisiana.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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