Voters are glued to the results in a handful of battleground states today that will decide the presidential contest this year, bypassing ballots in deep blue and red states where the outcome has been a forgone conclusion for months. But in Louisiana, a state that last went blue in 1996, the outcome of this year’s race could hold clues to the future of the GOP.
What shape the Republican Party will take after the 2012 elections will be decided in part through the result of a heated congressional race pitting current Tea Party Rep. Jeff Landry against establishment GOP Cong. Charles Boustany. Landry and Boustany are locked in a race for Louisiana’s 3rd District, which was redrawn after the 2010 Census. If neither candidate polls higher than 50% on Election Day, the top two vote-getters head to a run-off in December, something that seems likely with several other candidates in the race.
The Landry-Boustany face-off is part of the ongoing purification of the GOP after the insurgent rise of the Tea Party in 2009.
Louisiana voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment that would subject state gun laws to a strict scrutiny standard of judicial review over the current rational basis legal test, something opponents charge could make gun rights in Louisiana harder to abridge than any existing federal prohibitions on gun ownership.
Lastly, the results of election 2012 will mean a lot for the state’s Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, a rising star in GOP politics, who will make a decision to either run for president in 2016 or for the U.S. Senate in 2014.
PolicyMic will be covering the 2012 election from the state of Louisiana live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.
UPDATE: 7:21 PM CST
Louisiana voters turned out in record numbers for election 2012, with more than 300,000 residents statewide casting ballots early, including nearly 25,000 voters who submitted votes ahead of Election Day in New Orleans.
The pace of voting in the state is up 25 percent over 2008 and the Louisiana secretary of state, whose office monitors elections, is projecting that voter turnout on Election Day will outpace figures from four years ago as well.
UPDATE: 7:33 PM CST
Exit polls show Louisiana voters most concerned about the economy, even while jobless numbers in the state continue to fall.
Early predictions of heavy voter turnout come true as long lines greet balloters in sections of New Orleans and the state's capital, Baton Rouge.
UPDATE: 8:00 PM CST
With polls set to close at this hour in the Pelican State, visitors to NOLA. com, the website for a New Orleans-based newspaper, have chosen the presidential race as the most important item on the ballot.
Voters were asked to choose from among other issues, including the city's congressional race and several constitutional amendements and local ordinances.
The online poll can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/by8xv7j
UPDATE: 8:20 PM CST
NBC News has called Louisiana for former Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee.
The state offered no surprises tonight and has not gone for a Democrat since Bill Clinton won the state in 1996.
Louisiana earned no special attention from the national political campaigns in the lead-up to Election Day, as the state's election outcome was long a forgone conclusion.
UPDATE: 9:55 PM CST
Polls are closed in Louisiana and election results are staring to trickle in. Below are some of the results from key ballot questions:
Crescent City Connection Toll Extension
Yes – 53%
No – 47%
Gun Rights Constitutional Amendment
Yes – 75%
No – 25%
Medicaid Trust Fund for Elderly
Yes – 71%
No – 29%
Ballot totals are not final – check back for more details.
UPDATE: 10:11 PM CST
The Lake Charles American Press is reporting that, with 93% of precincts reporting, GOP congressmen Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry will head to a run-off election next month.
UPDATE: 11:06 PM CST
Election returns indicate that voters have approved the establishment of a secure Medicaid trust fund for the elderly, barring state lawmakers from using Medicaid dollars in this fund for other matters.
Voters have also backed, overwhelmingly, an amendment to the state constitution making the right to bear arms a fundamental right and subjecting gun restrictions to strict judicial scrutiny.
At present, poll numbers for extending the Crescent City Connection tolls in New Orleans, a matter voted on by metro-area voters, are split evenly between opponents of extending the tolls and those in favor of the effort.
UPDATE: 11:32 PM CST
Voters tonight have backed a measure that would allow authorities to seize portions of lawmakers' retirement benefits who have been convicted of public corruption.
Louisiana is a state that has been beset by public corruption cases for decades, causing residents, with most of the state's precincts reporting, to give the proposal the thumbs up by a margin of 71% to 29%.
UPDATE: 11:46 PM CST
New Orleans-area Cong. Cedric Richmond (D), one of only two Democrats in the state's congressional delegation, is slated to return to Capitol Hill next year, with a majority of precincts reporting Richmond garnered 51% of the vote today, avoiding a potential run-off election.
Richmond unseated GOP Cong. Joseph Cao two years ago and was one of a small number of House candidates who received direct help from the White House in the midst of the president's unpopularity over the health care reform bill.
UPDATE: 12:27 AM CST
Election night is drawing to a close in Louisiana and a complete tally of state and local election returns can be found online at www.nola.com and www.theadvocate.com, both are websites for the state's two largest newspapers.
From the bayou -- good night!