Turnout in the March 25 primary election for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal race was an abysmal 10 percent district-wide. Turnout will likely be higher in the runoff thanks to local ballot issues, and that prospect raises hurdles for the Candyce Perret campaign.
The Perret campaign sought to win the election in the primary but came up short. With the money race nearing parity, the election map tends to favor Theall based on the outsized role that Lafayette Parish plays in the eight-parish district.
Data from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website shows that there are 406,350 voters in the eight-parish district. There are 152,714 registered voters in Lafayette Parish, or 37.58 percent of the total votes in the district.
In the primary, turnout in only Acadia and Vermilion parishes cracked the 10 percent mark. Turnout in Acadia for the Third Circuit primary was 20.7 percent and was driven in large measure by a special election to fill an open seat in a state House district that spreads across the southern portion of the parish. Perret ran first in Acadia in the primary with 47 percent.
Acadia has two parishwide school board taxes in addition to four local issues, yet it’s still a safe assumption that turnout falls from March when turnout was driven by the race to fill the unexpired portion of Jack Montoucet’s House term.
Lafayette Parish primary turnout was 9.4 percent, and Theall captured 46 percent of the votes. Perret got 29 percent of the vote in Lafayette while Vanessa Anseman got 25 percent.
With a high-profile school tax on the ballot on April 29 alongside the Third Circuit runoff, turnout in Lafayette is expected to rise to about 20 percent.
Lafayette represents a much larger number of votes cast than anywhere else, and the problem for Perret is that her problems are best known here. Higher turnout in Lafayette is bad news for her. The raw numbers of Lafayette can and will offset any gains she might make in other parishes.
Allen Parish has an ambulance service district tax on the ballot. Turnout there for the primary was 5.3 percent — a mere 737 total votes. Turnout could double, and it would not materially change the vote in the district. Allen is just too small.
Evangeline has a parishwide school board tax renewal on the ballot April 29. Evangeline turnout in the primary was 9.1 percent (1,836) with Perret taking 60 percent of the votes. Turnout will be higher in the runoff, and Perret will still likely run first, but the raw numbers in Evangeline Parish aren’t that large. If turnout doubles, it will mean that just a couple of hundred more people will vote there this time than voted in Iberia Parish in March when 7.1 percent of voters went to the polls. In the primary, Anseman and Theall each got 20 percent of the Evangeline vote, but it’s difficult to see Perret going higher from her 60 percent, yet easy to imagine Theall consolidating the runner-up vote and getting to 40 percent. That’s a narrowing of the race in Evangeline from Theall’s standpoint.
Iberia will likely remain under 10 percent turnout as there are no other drivers there or in St. Landry and St. Martin.
Theall’s strength in Lafayette Parish would tend to be amplified by higher turnout here. The question is not only whether turnout will increase in other parishes where Perret led, but whether it will be enough to offset the increase in Lafayette; it is also whether Theall runs closer to Perret in those outlying parishes than she did in the primary.
Perret led the primary field in Acadia, Allen, Evangeline, Iberia, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes. If Theall can win in any of those seven parishes and lead in Lafayette, she could emerge the winner — an outcome that once would have been considered nearly as unlikely as the two candidates being even in the money race eight days out from the runoff.