More Than 11,000 Voted Early in New Orleans Mayor Race

More than 11,000 people cast their ballots early in the mayoral runoff election to see who will lead the city as it rebuilds after Hurricane Katrina, officials said Sunday.

Mayor Ray Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu were the top two finishers last month in a 22-candidate primary, forcing the runoff.

Residents scattered around the country by Katrina were allowed to vote all week at satellite centers in Lake Charles, Shreveport, New Orleans and seven other cities around the state.

The Secretary of State's Office said 11,534 people cast ballots during early voting, which began Monday and ended Saturday. The majority of the votes — 7,488 — were cast in Orleans Parish, while 1,543 people voted in East Baton Rouge Parish.

The numbers are similar to those recorded in the primary, when 10,585 voters cast early ballots, the most coming from Orleans Parish. About 110,000 ballots total were cast in the primary.

University of New Orleans pollster Susan Howell said the slight uptick in turnout for early voting in the runoff could be a result of displaced residents learning about their options.

"It could be that more people became aware of how to satellite vote. And that people who took the trip last time maybe took the easier way this time and learned from someone else how to do it," Howell said.

The rest of New Orleans' registered voters will be able to select their next mayor Saturday.