April 25, 2017 11:36 AM

Interest in Lafayette's school board sales tax is magnifying the parish's influence in the election.

Saturday turnout in the Third Circuit district, which includes the parishes of Acadia, Allen, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion, should be slightly higher than the 10 percent who voted in the March primary.

(Editors Note: The projected turnout percentage has been corrected. The original story put it at 11.44 percent. However, that number was based on an incomplete calculation. Early vote totals for the runoff are 1.144. times larger than those in the primary. When that factor is applied to total vote in the primary, the projected runoff vote total is 55,010. That total represents 13.53 percent of registered voters. The story now reports that as the projected turnout for the runoff. We caught the incomplete calculation while reviewing the figures once again on Tuesday evening.)

Early voting totals in Saturday's runoff election for the Third Circuit Court of Appeal race between Candyce Perret and Susan Theall point to a slightly higher turnout than in the primary, but Lafayette Parish voters are playing an outsized role in the election.

Overall, a total of 9,707 voters cast early ballots in the runoff election last week. That includes mailed ballots collected as of Monday morning. Mailed ballots from civilians will be counted by registrars of voters if they are received by Friday afternoon, and ballots from members of the armed forces will be counted if they arrive before polls close on Saturday.

All mail tallies below represent mail ballots received by registrars by Monday.

Ahead of the March 25 primary, 8,486 voters cast early ballots in the eight parishes that comprise the district. In all, 40,506 voters cast ballots in the primary, constituting 10 percent of registered voters in the district.

Extrapolating from the current round of early voting, turnout for Saturday's election should fall somewhere around 13.53 percent of the district's 406,350 registered voters.

While there has been an overall increase in early voting activity, it has not been spread evenly across the district.

The biggest change is apparent in Lafayette Parish, which is the largest parish in the district in terms of registered voters with 152,714. In the primary, 2,178 Lafayette votes voted early. In the runoff, 3,028 cast early votes in person and another 840 had voted by mail.

That 3,868 total represents a 77 percent increase in early vote totals over the primary with more mailed ballots likely to trickle in.

Acadia Parish had 2,103 early votes in the primary. In the runoff, 899 people showed up in person to early vote. Another 341 had mailed in ballots. That 1,240 total represents about a 41 percent drop in early votes cast in that parish when compared to the primary.

Turnout in the primary in Acadia Parish was driven in large measure by a special election for the House seat vacated by Jack Montoucet, who was named secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The seat was won by John Stefanski. Turnout in the House race was 25.8 percent, according to the secretary of state's website. Turnout in the Third Circuit primary in Acadia was lower, however, with 20.7 percent of voters going to the polls.

Early voting in Allen Parish is up. In the primary, 173 early ballots were cast. In early voting for the runoff, 153 voters cast early ballots in person and another 39 mailed ballots have already been received. The combined 203 early votes reflect interest driven by local tax elections in that parish.

Evangeline Parish also reported increased early voting activity in this round. In the primary, 324 Evangeline voters cast early votes. In the runoff cycle, 362 had cast early ballots as of Monday — 293 in person and another 69 ballots had been mailed in.

Early voting in Iberia Parish was up slightly from the primary when 809 Iberia voters went to the polls early. According to the Iberia Registrar of Voters office, 870 voters have cast early ballots in the runoff — 613 in person and another 257 by mail.

St. Landry turnout for early voting was up as well. Only 865 voters cast early ballots in the primary, but in the runoff, 743 people cast early votes in person with another 323 having cast ballots by mail. That 1,066 total represents a nearly 25 percent increase in early ballots in St. Landry.

Early voting in St. Martin Parish also increased in the runoff. In the primary, 1,001 voters cast early ballots. So far in the runoff, 1,209 St. Martin Parish voters have cast ballots — 892 in person and another 317 by mail.

Vermilion Parish joins Acadia as one of two parishes experiencing a drop in early voting activity. In the March primary, 1,032 Vermilion voters cast early votes. In the runoff, 580 cast early votes in person while another 245 ballots had been received by mail. That 825 vote total represents a decline of about 20 percent from the primary total.

In the primary, a comparative analysis of early voting totals then versus early voting totals in the December 2016 runoff race for the U.S. Senate accurately predicted a low double digit turnout for the Third Circuit primary. The final turnout for the primary was exactly 10 percent, according to the secretary of state.

Using the same basis for analysis, early voting totals in the runoff point to a districtwide turnout of about 13.53 percent. That would translate into about 55,000 votes being cast.

Like the early voting, those votes will not be evenly distributed.

Based on the spike in early voting, runoff turnout in Lafayette Parish should be approximately 17.8 percent of the registered voters in the parish. If that happens, there would be a total of approximately 27,200 votes cast in the parish.

If that scenario holds, votes cast in Lafayette Parish would constitute about 49.5 percent of all votes in the judicial race.

Either Perret or Theall could theoretically win the Third Circuit Court of Appeal seat without taking Lafayette Parish, but she would either have to run a very close second here or win very large margins in the smaller parishes.

In the March 25 primary, Theall captured 46 percent of the 14,340 votes cast in Lafayette Parish. Perret came in second with 29 percent followed by Vanessa Anseman with 25 percent.

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