Record-setting early voting numbers changing Ascension political landscape

Early/absentee voting in Ascension continues to spike, every gubernatorial/legislative/parish-wide ballot since October 24, 2015 has seen the numbers climb.  A record number of Ascension Parish voters exercised the franchise early for the October 12 Primary Election; a record shattered by those voting early for Saturday’s (November 16) General Election.  It is attributable to Oak Grove Community Center, located in the right angle formed by three busy north Ascension roadways, as an early polling station; and Ascension’s political landscape is forever changed.

How many thousands of vehicles travel Airline Hwy, Hwy 42, and Old Jefferson every day?  Densely-populated north Ascension, those voting precincts closest to Oak Grove Community, accounted for 7,760 (46%) of the record 16,876 early votes for the upcoming election with runoffs for Governor, Secretary of State, and two local elections on the ballot.  That is a 25% increase from last month’s full slate of Primary Elections, 13,540.

Oak Grove Community Center came online as an early polling station in time for last year’s Fall Election calendar when a parish judgeship and EA Drainage’s 5-mill property tax highlighted the ballot on November 6, 2018.  9,914 votes would be cast early with one of the highest turnouts in recent memory (54.2%), excluding dates when the US presidency was at stake (see below).

Compared to 2015, when the seats contested this year were last up for grabs, the numbers are even more striking.  Without Oak Grove as an early voting option, the October 24, 2015 primary saw 5,620 early votes; the November 21, 2015 runoff spiked to 7,389.  Corresponding turnout in 2011’s fall elections was approximately 3,500.

Election Day voting for gubernatorial/legislative/parish elections has been remarkably similar since October 24, 2015 when overall turnout was 39.4%.

  • Total: 28,151
  • Election Day: 22,531 (80%)
  • Early: 5,620 (20%)

November 21, 2015 (42.7% overall turnout):

  • Total: 30,607
  • Election Day: 23,218 (76%)
  • Early: 7,389 (24%)

October 12, 2019 (48% overall turnout):

  • Total: 36,964
  • Election Day: 23,424 (63%)
  • Early: 13,540 (37%)

NOTE:  The outlier, as always, was the US President’s election, last conducted in 2016 without the Oak Grove option.  12,953 early/absentee ballots were cast as overall turnout was 72.2%.  That was a 50% increase from 2011’s early voting for president when overall turnout was still over 70%.

Two municipalities, Gonzales and Donaldsonville (both house courthouses where early voting has always been conducted), have exercised an inordinate amount of influence over parish elections.  No longer is that the case.  Population explosion in Prairieville, along with a more convenient early polling station, has tilted that balance of power northward.

It has been feared by the old-time power brokers for decades, ever since Ascension began to attract the residential development companies.