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Election 2020

Election 2020

It ain’t over: Lafayette races turn to runoffs for district court and city marshal

The gist: High drama in the presidential election drove a big turnout and a hangover for anxious voters. Runoffs for two district judgeships and city marshal will likely compete with much lower participation on Dec. 5, if history is any indicator. 

4 min read

Here are the big remaining races. I’ve included the primary vote share for each candidate. 

  • City Marshal — Kip Judice (R) 44% vs. Reggie Thomas (NP) 26%
  • District Court Div. B — Travis Broussard (D) 28% vs. Valerie Gotch Garrett (D) 49%
  • District Court Div. D — Royale Colbert (D) 44% vs.  Amanda Martin (D) 41% 

71%. That’s the turnout for presidential election among Lafayette Parish voters. Enthusiasm for the Biden/Trump race edged the 2016 turnout by almost 9,000 votes. Turnout for down-ballot races trailed the headlining contest, which is typical of most presidential cycle elections. 

Runoffs generally turn in much lower turnout. Though they vary by office. The 2016 Trump/Clinton contest drew 68.7% participation. U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins won his first term that year in a runoff that drew only 28% participation across the 3rd Congressional District and 29% in Lafayette Parish. John Kennedy’s Senate run fared about the same. 

That’s not quite apples to apples. The last city marshal’s race was in 2014 — it’s a six-year term. Brian Pope, who was removed from office after a felony conviction this month, beat Kip Judice in a runoff that year that attracted 43% of city voters, a relatively minor decline from the 50% voting in the 2014 primary — notably absent a presidential contest. Judice, Republican, now faces Reggie Thomas, no party, in an open seat runoff after a comparatively live primary race that posted 66.7% participation. 

District court races didn’t see much of a boost from the Trump vs. Biden contest. Around 52% of voters cast ballots in both the Div. D and Div. K races still up for grabs. In 2014, a race for Div. E, won by Judge Michele Breaux, pulled in 52% participation, declining to 43% for the runoff. 

The X-factor is money. Ad buys and earned media attention would tend to boost interest in the remaining races. In the marshal’s race, Judice raised over $186,000 since kicking off his campaign at the beginning of 2020. He’s spent all but a few thousand dollars, though he boasts a big list of contributors, the institutional support of the Republican Party and a healthy lead. Thomas, running no party, pulled about $29,000 since jumping in mid-summer, adding another $10,000 with a personal loan. In his final filing, issued 10 days before the primary, he reported around $18,000 heading into the runoff. 

It’s a mixed bag of Democrats in the judicial races. In Div. B, Travis Broussard goes into the runoff with $10,400 left of roughly $50,000 raised, edging out opponent Valerie Gotch Garrett’s remaining $4,000 pot of her nearly $70,000 war-chest, which included $33,400 in loans. 

In Div. D, Royale Colbert sits on just under $22,000, according to the latest filings, after far outraising Amanda Martin through the campaign. He raised over $50,000 and loaned his effort another $50,000. Martin reported a little over $6,000 on hand 10 days out from the primary but raised around $20,000 total throughout the campaign, loaning her campaign $16,150. 

What to watch for: Ground game will be everything. In local races, money doesn’t necessarily mean votes, but it can’t hurt. It’s a truism in politics of all levels that what matters is who turns out the vote. Without a big ticket race to energize Republicans and Democrats in December, it’s going to come down to how well the candidates can get out the vote.

News + Notes

Lafayette voters turn in no surprises on president, top races; race for marshal and some judicial seats head for a runoff

The gist: The president matched his margin in 2016 and the rest of the ballot followed from there. Some races will go to a runoff. 

4 min read

As expected, turnout was big. Lafayette Parish turned out nearly 71% of registered voters in the presidential election. Donald Trump is still very popular in Lafayette. His margin diminished only slightly on the higher turnout. He claimed 61% of the vote in Lafayette Parish, down from 65% in 2016. 

Rep. Clay Higgins and Sen. Bill Cassidy handily won re-election. The Republican incumbents were never really in danger. Both faced longshots of hitting a runoff. 

Don Landry thumps Danny Landry for district attorney. Here’s the part where I say “no relation.” Don Landry ran away with the tri-parish race, sweeping Danny Landry 63% to 37%. The race between Republicans turned bitter in the final weeks. 

Two district court races are headed for a runoff.

  • Democrats Valerie Gotch Garrett and Travis Brousard will face off in December for Div. B. Garret narrowly missed winning the race outright at 49%. 
  • Royal Colbert (44%) and Amanda Martin (41%), also Democrats, take a tighter race for Div. D to a runoff. 
  • Republican Michele Billeaud (56%) handily bested two other Republicans in a race for Div. K. 
  • Republican Susan Theall (54%) also safely won the Div. M family court seat. 

Kip Judice takes a strong lead into a runoff with Reggie Thomas. The Duson police chief, a Republican, took 44% of the vote. Reggie Thomas, a no party candidate and Lafayette Police Department veteran, has a lot of ground to make after claiming 26% of votes in that contest. 

Michelle Odinet defeated Jules Edwards by a wide margin for City Judge Div. A. The Republican finished with a commanding 57% to 43% win over the longtime district court jurist. 

CREATE rededication passed easily. The .25 mill property tax, controversial when passed as a tack-on to a drainage measure, will be split into funds that pay for rural fire protection and parish roads and bridges. Voters said “yes” 56% to 44%. 

Lafayette school renewal also passed without trouble. Recent renewal defeats cast an air of uncertainty around this property tax funding public school maintenance, infrastructure and construction. It passed 60% to 40%. 

Voters cast their lots with Sports Betting. On the ballot separately in all 64 parishes, the measure cashed out in Lafayette Parish 63% to 37%. The measure is picking up  

Five of the seven constitutional amendments look likely to pass easily. Lafayette Parish voted with the rest of the state on all but Amendment #3. There are still some precincts outstanding elsewhere in Louisiana. In the meantime. Here are the statewide margins. 

  • Amendment #1 enshrining no right to an abortion in the state constitution is headed to a strong finish 65% to 35%
  • Amendment #2 changing how oil wells are taxed is on its way to passing 58% to 42%
  • Amendment #3 allowing more flexible use of the state’s rainy day fund is trending toward to passing 54% to 46%
  • Amendment #4 setting harder limits on state spending growth is unlikely to overtake a 45% to 55% margin
  • Amendment #5 creating a new tax incentive tool to attract industry is all but dead in the water 38% to 62%
  • Amendment #6 raising the income threshold on an assessed property value freeze for seniors will likely pass handily 62% to 38%
  • Amendment #7 creating a trust fund unclaimed property is breezing 65% to 35%
Election 2020

Election officials: Lafayette voting machines are not intentionally erasing votes for president

The gist: A handful of social media posts has raised suspicions of vote tampering with reports of voting machines in Lafayette Parish appearing to erase votes. Election officials insist that’s not happening, chalking up the stray phenomenon, often reported second or third-hand, to routine errors and malfunctions. All complaints have been resolved and the votes cast as intended.

4 min read

“Every single machine complaint has been checked out to see if it’s working,” by employees of the parish clerk of court’s office and the secretary of state, according to Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret. Machine issues have been rectified and votes counted as they should. 

The social media posts recount episodes where lights suddenly dim or disappear next to a presidential candidate’s name. Perret says all complaints that have come to his office have been checked and that voters were able to cast their vote for president as intended. 

“We’re expecting 1.2 million voters which is incredibly high turnout,” says Tyler Brey, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office. He says they’ve heard similar anecdotal reports in one or two parishes in the state, including Lafayette and Caddo parishes, but nothing that rises to the level of concern. “There are bound to be issues. It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he says.

One machine malfunctioned at Myrtle Elementary. Perret confirmed the account of Maghann Davy Judice, an admin for the Oaklawn Neighborhood Facebook page. Myrtle serves as the polling location for the mid-city neighborhood. Three different Myrtle voters had their votes re-submitted because of what turned out to be a faulty electronic panel, Perret confirms. Judice’s sister witnessed the first malfunction. All three voters ultimately cast their votes as they intended, Judice says, and she and the other Oaklawn admins who chased the issue down are satisfied the malfunction was the source of the problem. 

Irregularities more often come down to operator error. Perret suspects that’s at the root of a similar report circulating on social media about voting at Ernest Gallet Elementary in Youngsville. As at Myrtle, the voters re-cast their ballots as intended, and the machines were checked by a tech and working fine, Perret says. 

Operator error can come from voters or poll workers or both. Machines take a second to fully boot between voters. If a voter begins punching choices in too early in the reboot process, it may not register in the machine. Another possibility: If voters accidentally hit the wrong button, before a ballot is cast, they can reset the selection by hitting the wrong button again. That clears the lights on that item. Beyond that, Perret can only speculate, but he re-emphasizes that all complaints have been resolved. 

Whatever the problem, flag it ASAP. Errors happen in every election, as do malfunctions, Perret notes,  emphasizing that concerned voters should immediately notify poll workers before they hit the button to cast the ballot. Every voting station has a phone to call in techs to work on malfunctioning machines. 

Vote counts are checked to match the number of ballots cast with the number of registered voters who signed in to vote. Each machine stores that information. So long as the ballots and voters match up, they know that votes were cast appropriately. 

So far, there has not been an unusual number of election complaints. Perret estimates fielding between 75 and 100 complaints. But that figure includes machine irregularities and complaints from campaigns about electioneering violations. He says that complaint volume is typical of a presidential election, even given the anticipated record-breaking turnout. 

“We always want to do our elections in the open. I cannot do anything about complaints on Facebook,” Perret says, again emphasizing that voters call the clerk to report any issues they encounter. 

Double check your vote. The bottom line is that the vote counting process is still deeply human. Make sure your ballot is filled out correctly, and let a poll worker know if you suspect there’s a problem with the machine. 

Call the clerk of court with any voting issues: (337) 291-6400.

Are you having voting problems? Let me know: [email protected]