Elections 2022

Elections in Louisiana:

How to Understand When and Where to Vote

By Victoria Wenger
Attorney for the Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender Project

This fall, Louisiana voters will cast ballots for a range of federal, state, and local positions — in addition to important state constitutional amendments. While many other states will conclude their voting season with the November 8 elections, Louisiana voters must return to the polls on December 10 to cast ballots for races undecided on November 8 and to vote on several other items, including additional constitutional amendments. With a busy election season for Louisianans this year, it is critical that voters have the information they need to have their voices heard in every choice on each ballot.

Confusing Processes Unique to Louisiana

Louisiana elections are unique because of their structure and timing, which can cause confusion for voters this time of year. Louisiana hosts nonpartisan, open primaries in November of federal election cycles, rather than closed-party primaries earlier in the year like many other states. This means that candidates of all parties compete in the same primary and the top two candidates advance to a runoff election if no one candidate receives over 50% of the primary vote. This year, that runoff election will occur on Saturday, December 10. Because runoffs are not always required in races among individual candidates, elections will be a patchwork across the state where some races will still need to be decided in December while others are settled in November.

Potentially Confusing Ballots (in November and December)

Because ballots vary widely from one parish to another and one district to another, it is important that Louisiana voters understand the unique features of elections in their state and familiarize themselves with the items on their local ballot in November—and December. This year all voters will have multiple constitutional amendments on the ballot on both November 10 and December 8, even if races in their community do not require a runoff.

For both elections, voters should familiarize themselves with the sample ballot prepared for their precinct, specifically (found at GeauxVote.com). This will help clarify which races are unique to their community and will help voters understand if their districts changed during the recent redistricting process. Voters can also access resources from LDF to learn about how to research local races, candidates, and issues. Voters must make sure to leave no power on the table by casting a vote on every item that appears on their ballot—top to bottom.

Limited Early Voting Sites

Early voting provides an important and reliable way for voters to have more control in deciding when to cast their ballot and the security to know it has been submitted before the last possible date—Election Day. However, because early voting sites and absentee-by-mail qualifications are limited in Louisiana, access to early voting varies widely.

Under Louisiana law, any voter can vote early in person at a designated location in their parish, which is typically the Registrar of Voters’ office. While there is an opportunity for more sites to be made available, many parishes only provide one early voting location. And while legislation was passed in 2021 to ensure that voters have 11 days of early voting in presidential election cycles, there are only seven days provided when the presidency is not on the ballot. This year, early voting runs from October 25 through November 1, taking place between 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. each day except Sunday.

Some parishes have made important moves to increase early voting sites, including Caddo Parish, which will debut a second early voting site after voters in 2020 waited in multi-hour lines that wrapped around city blocks in Shreveport.

“The opening of Caddo Parish’s second early voting site is the product of longstanding advocacy by community members and organizations committed to breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for voters,” says Billy Anderson, Northern Louisiana Organizer for Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. “The new location at Shreve Memorial Library – Hamilton/South Caddo Branch provides ample and accessible free parking for voters, which helps mitigate issues voters previously faced navigating long lines and other restrictions that a single early voting location perpetuated.”

Similar site expansion efforts across the state are needed to ensure long lines do not mark the early voting period in Louisiana this year or in future election cycles. All Louisiana voters can learn more about where to find their early voting site by visiting the Secretary of State’s website or the Voter Portal at GeauxVote.com. Increasing early voting sites will be critical to the resilience of secure election administration in Louisiana for decades to come.

“The opening of Caddo Parish’s second early voting site is the product of longstanding advocacy by community members and organizations committed to breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for voters."

- Billy Anderson

Northern Louisiana Organizer, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice.

Ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of the new Caddo Parish early voting site. (Photo by Candice Battiste)

Changing Polling Locations

Even frequent voters who opt to vote on Election Day may face confusion due to changes in polling locations. After the 2020 Census, voters in Iberia and St. Landry Parishes encountered rampant poll site changes, requiring them to reroute to new locations. Advocates were forced to canvass the communities most impacted for multiple weeks leading up to elections in 2021 to provide voters with information about the adjusted locations and to survey needs for rides to the more distance polls. While some sites have been restored, confusion may mark Election Day for many voters whose polling place has changed or reverted in recent years.

Anticipating recurring confusion due to poll site changes, advocates including the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice pushed the passage of a bill that requires poll site changes to be posted online by the Secretary of State in advance of Election Day. Importantly, the bill also requires that key election official websites also include instructions on how a voter may subscribe to receive electronic notifications of polling place location changes.

Now live, the Secretary’s new webpage reveals the wide range of polling location changes this year. All voters should check the site or the Voter Portal at GeauxVote.com to confirm their polling location when making their plans to vote. Voters can also learn how to subscribe to receive notifications of emergency polling location changes and other voting reminders at https://bit.ly/LaElectionAlerts.

Caddo Parish Commissioner Stormy Gage-Watts and LDF Campaign Strategist Candice Battiste. (Photo courtesy of Candice Battiste)
Leroy Gaskins and Mary Davis leave a fire house after voting in the Carrollton neighborhood of New Orleans, La., November 8, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty)
LDF Voting Rights Defender and Prepared to Vote attorney Tori Wenger and PTV/VRD programs associate Leigh Logan visit the new Caddo parish early voting site. (Photo by Tori Wenger)

Ask Questions and Report Problems

Full participation in Louisiana elections depends on voters having broad access to the information they need to make a plan to vote and know that vote will be counted. LDF and statewide partners have prepared nonpartisan “Know Your Voting Rights” information that highlights key state and federal voting rights protections, as well as critical dates and deadlines in this election cycle.

Additionally, voters are encouraged to call the national, nonpartisan Election Protection hotline 866-OUR-VOTE for any questions about the voting process or to report issues that they encounter during the election season. These resources are designed to ensure that every voter has the support they need to cast their ballot with confidence that it will be counted. Whether voting absentee-by-mail, early in person, or on Election Day, be sure to GEAUX VOTE, Louisiana! 

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