By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than 307,000 Louisiana residents voted in advance of next week's election, exceeding the state's early voting turnout for all but presidential election years, according to state data released Wednesday.About 10 percent of Louisiana's nearly 3 million voters cast ballots in the weeklong early voting period that ended Tuesday, in races for secretary of state, six U.S. House seats and other positions.Despite the large number of early voters, the secretary of state's office predicts turnout only will reach 30 to 35 percent on Election Day.

"This year's early voting numbers are higher than recent midterm elections. We believe this is due to chronic voters choosing to vote early, instead of on Election Day," agency spokesman Tyler Brey said in a statement.

By comparison, 245,000 people voted early in the 2014 primary, which featured a hotly contested U.S. Senate race and 235,000 people voted early in the attention-grabbing 2015 gubernatorial primary. The 2012 presidential election drew nearly 357,000 early voters in Louisiana, and the 2016 competition between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton saw 531,000 people casting ballots early.

Pollster John Couvillon, of JMC Analytics, said this year's early voting figure was impressive since the only statewide ballot competition is the special election for secretary of state and Louisiana's six incumbent congressmen appear safe in their re-election bids. In analysis posted to his website, Couvillon said the turnout likely was driven by news coverage highlighting the elections and strong early voting around the country.

"As a result, Louisianians were aware that there is an election here, even though at the congressional level, there are no seriously contested races from the standpoint of partisan control of the entire Congress," he wrote.

White voters cast early ballots in slightly greater proportions than black voters during the early voting for the November election, according to statistics from the secretary of state's office. While 31 percent of registered voters are African-American, 28 percent of those who cast ballots ahead of Election Day were black.

Republicans and Democrats turned out more heavily than independents. While 30 percent of state voters are registered with the GOP, they made up 39 percent of the early voters, according to the data. Forty-three percent of the state's voters are registered Democrats, but Democrats were 46 percent of the early voters.

At the top of the ballot, nine contenders are vying to fill the remaining year of the term of former Secretary of State Tom Schedler, the Republican who resigned in May after one of his employees sued him for sexual harassment. The case has since been settled out of court.

Louisiana's secretary of state oversees elections, state archives and business registrations.

Schedler's top aide, Republican Kyle Ardoin of Baton Rouge, is working in the interim job until voters elect someone. Though he initially said he wouldn't run for the permanent position, Ardoin signed up for the race in the final minutes of the candidate registration period.

Other Republicans seeking the position include Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud, former state Sen. A.G. Crowe of Pearl River, state Rep. Rick Edmonds of Baton Rouge, and state Rep. Julie Stokes of Kenner. Democrats in the race include Renee Fontenot Free, a former first assistant to two prior secretaries of state who most recently worked for the attorney general, and Gwen Collins-Greenup, a lawyer and notary.

Six constitutional amendments are up for consideration, including one to decide whether Louisiana requires unanimous verdicts for all felony convictions. Voters will also establish whether sports enthusiasts in a parish can participate in online fantasy sports contests for cash prizes and will fill a lengthy list of local elected positions and judgeships.

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