Early voting began Saturday for the presidential primary election. The voting experience looks a little different with an ongoing global pandemic. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin encourages voters to practice social distancing while at the polls, adding the state will be offering extra spread mitigation efforts.

“We will have sanitizer available for them to utilize and commissioners will be wearing masks or face shields and gloves,” said Ardoin.

The election has been delayed twice due to COVID-19. Ardoin says there will be a long period of time to vote in an effort to reduce the risk of larger crowds congregating at polling places.

“We expanded the number of days from seven days to thirteen days so it gives people time to schedule their ability to go and early vote,” said Ardoin.

Ardoin says while mask-wearing is not mandated, it will be encouraged. The state’s famous “I Voted” stickers will not be distributed this election as an added precaution.

Only registered Republicans can vote in the GOP primary and even though Joe Biden is expected to accept the nomination in August, registered Democrats can select between the 14 candidates up for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“Everyone that qualified is still on the ballot, even though they may have withdrawn from the race,” said Ardoin.

Ardoin says in addition to the presidential primary, voters in 24 parishes will have local items on their ballot.

“You are going to see the local political party’s officers in each parish and then you’ll have the Democratic state central committees as well and the Republican parish executive committees.  Additionally, there will be some local issues on some ballots, but not on all,” said Ardoin.

For those that qualify for vote by mail, the cut off to request an absentee ballot is July 7th.

(Story written by Kevin Barnhart/Louisiana Radio Network)