Viewpoint: Early voting a big hit with New Orleans residents

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Danae Columbus

Voting machines are loaded onto trucks at the Voting Machine Warehouse on Chef Menteur Highway.

During the first two days of early voting, which began Tuesday (Oct. 25), almost 10,000 New Orleanians cast their votes either in-person or by mail. Those numbers continue to grow for every election, as people become more accustomed to finalizing their decisions earlier in the election process. Candidates have also noticed and are pushing out mail, social media and other forms of advertising to meet the early voting deadlines. 

In Orleans Parish, 9,490 registered voters turned in the ballots during the first two days. As usual, more Black (5,573) than White (3,530) residents have voted early. Females (5,713) outvoted males (3,777), and Democrats (7,440) far outnumbered Republicans (947) or candidates from other parties (1,103). The most interesting statistic is that more New Orleanians voted absentee (5,009) than in-person (4,481). Early voting continues through Nov. 1 at City Hall, 1300 Perdido St.; the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan St.;the Voting Machine Warehouse, 8870 Chef Menteur Highway; and the Lake Vista Community Center, 6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. Don’t miss your chance to be in that number.  


It seems hard to remember that just four months ago, District Attorney Jason Williams was on trial in federal District Court for 10 counts of tax fraud and failing to file forms related to large cash payments. Less than two years into his six-year term as district attorney, Williams was insisting vehemently that the government’s case was racially and politically motivated. In actuality, it was also weak and based almost exclusively on the testimony of his tax preparer, who had already pleaded guilty for his own personal tax problems. Aided by two powerhouse attorneys, Williams was able to convince a jury of his innocence and quickly returned to his Tulane and Broad duties.  

Before the trial, Williams was a high-flying progressive DA who was making a segment of the older, more chronic voters, both Black and White, uncomfortable. Upon his return, Williams was much more reflective but remained committed to his core values. A steady trickle of retrials continued for those who had been wrongfully incarcerated decades ago. Through a new weekly Orleans prosecution dashboard produced by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, the public now had greater access to information about arrests, screenings and depositions. Williams began paying closer attention to how those numbers looked and sometimes reacted accordingly. He seems to favor a more traditional law-and-order approach, especially on juvenile crime. Yet, a disconnect between his staff and the NOPD often slows down the process of moving the accused through the court system. Williams also recently met with crime victims who were pleased to have their voices heard — rather than just the voices of alleged perpetrators. 

Even with slight modifications, Williams is running his game his own way with little of the outside interference other progressive DAs around the country are facing. It’s almost like Williams is wearing a new coating of Teflon. Some voters still view Williams as a dishonorable public servant who avoided conviction. A larger group consider him a bronze David who was able to successfully defeat the Aryan Goliath. To them, prosecutorial overreach is alive and well in Louisiana. Although Williams had to sell his mansion on St. Charles Avenue to pay his attorneys and a court-ordered fine, he and his family acquired a million dollar property on Magazine Street — still not shabby digs.

Believing he, too, is a survivor and back on top, Williams has scheduled a fundraiser for Tuesday (Nov. 1) at Calcasieu, 930 Tchoupitoulas St. Expect a family reunion atmosphere where old and new friends, elected officials, candidates for office, and the defense bar salute the man who against big odds won the right to keep the day job he obviously loves. To many, Williams is still one of the most popular and powerful elected officials in New Orleans. If the mayoral recall campaign is successful, insiders believe that Williams should not be ruled out as a possible candidate for mayor. 

Danae Columbus

Jason Williams completes the paperwork to run for district attorney in 2019. He was elected on promises to reform the criminal justice system.


Kenneth “Randy” Russ, former CEO of Community Coffee, will debut an all-new presentation outlining what he believes must be done “to protect our election,” said local Republican leader Juliet Laughlin. “He will be heavily focused on the long game, with a new agenda and strategy for our election systems in Louisiana,” said event host John O’Dell. Many readers may remember O’Dell as the original manager of Kinko’s in downtown New Orleans. His wife, artist Annie O’Dell, is a perpetual vendor at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Under Russ’ 10-year leadership, Community Coffee grew from 220 associates to almost 1,000 and expanded store operations worldwide. Now a private investor, Russ taught marketing at Jackson State University and also served as director of the Center for Marketplace Ministry at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi.

Russ’ presentation, “Returning Power to the People,” will take place Sunday (Oct. 30) at Rock ‘n‘ Bowl, 3016 S. Carrollton. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. with the presentation set to begin at 4 p.m. A meal will be available by donation. Reservations are requested at or by calling Juliet Laughlin at 504-606-0009.


More than 100 New Orleans area lawyers are coming together at a lunch on Friday, Nov. 4, to help Civil District Court Judge Lori Jupiter pay down her campaign debt. Judge Jupiter was elected to the bench in 2020 and, as the junior judge, presides over a domestic docket. With the elevation of Judges Rachael Johnson and Nakisha Ervin-Knott to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, Judge Jupiter will move to a regular civil docket once two new judges are elected in 2023.

Judge Jupiter was born in Minneapolis to two former New Orleanians who never missed a Mardi Gras. She attended Xavier University, where she met her husband Jerome Jupiter, who is the deputy director of the Youth Empowerment Project. After a brief career in private practice, Judge Jupiter moved to the Louisiana 4th Circuit, where she spent 17 years as a research attorney. She also worked as a staff attorney in the Clerk’s Office and then became a research attorney for retired Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. Judge Jupiter has been a member of the Louisiana Bar Association for almost 25 years.        

Jupiter’s Debt Reduction Committee members include such heavy-hitters as Councilman Joe Giarrusso III, former U.S. Attorney Harry Rosenberg, East Baton Rouge DA Tony Clayton, former City Attorney Sharonda Williams, Criminal Court Clerk Darren Lombard, and lawyers Rico Alvendia, Morris Bart, Chip Forstall, Blake Jones and Darleen Jacobs. The luncheon will be held at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, 525 Fulton St., and includes complimentary parking at Harrah’s Casino garage with validation.   


Just two nights before the mid-term elections, philanthropists Tony and Katherine Gelderman will open up their Garden District mansion next Sunday, Nov. 6, for the annual reunion and fundraising reception of the Institute of Politics. For almost 50 years, IOP has been the premier local training program for individuals interested in politics and political leadership. Many members of the local political media as well as candidates running for office traditionally attend the reunion.

Started by the late Ed Renwick and now led by Tommy Screen, the program offers lectures, discussions and projects on all aspects of the political process and includes news style interviews by trained reporters. Institute participants will learn about campaign strategy, organization, financing, polling, public relations, lobbying, community grass roots organizations, newspapers and the electronic media. editorial board member and columnist Stephanie Grace currently chairs the IOP.

Tickets to the reunion are $75 per person and partially tax deductible. Reservations can be made in advance by emailing or by calling 504-415-9924. Checks and credit cards will be accepted at the door. 

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as former District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, former City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at

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