Louisiana secretary of state will try again to get legislators to approve emergency election plan

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin will try again Wednesday to get legislators to approve an emergency plan for this year’s elections after stripping out provisions to expand mail-in voting that gave his fellow Republicans heartburn last week.

Ardoin said he doesn’t want to get sued for denying anyone their right to vote, nor does he want to oversee a repeat of Wisconsin’s recent election where numerous polling locations were shut down, many poll workers didn’t show up, and voters waited in line for several hours in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. John Bel Edwards already has postponed this year’s elections twice, citing public health concerns. The presidential preference primary and municipal primary election now is scheduled for July 11 while a state general election is slated for Aug. 15.

Ardoin’s original plan that legislators declined to move forward would have allowed anyone to use a mail-in absentee ballot for the two upcoming elections if they said they had health concerns about going out. He said that provision, which some lawmakers found overly broad, came out of negotiations with Edwards’ office.

It also would have temporarily added being over 60 years old (current cutoff is 65), being subject to a “stay at home” order, or caring for a child or grandchild as valid reasons to vote absentee.

Those reasons are not in the current proposal that state Senate and House of Representatives committees are scheduled to take up Wednesday. The plan does include being subject to a medically necessary quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting a diagnosis, caring for someone who is quarantined, or having a chronic health condition that imparts a higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications.

The plan still would temporarily reduce the number of witness signatures for a valid absentee ballot from two to one, which was controversial last week.

Many voting rights advocates and politicians, more Democrats than Republicans, want to expand voting by mail. President Donald Trump says allowing more Americans to vote by mail would lead to widespread fraud and “levels of voting” that would hurt Republicans, though supporters say there is little evidence for either claim.

Rep. Mandie Landry of New Orleans has sponsored a measure that would allow every Louisiana resident to vote by mail and require the state to provide pre-paid postage on absentee ballots. She says it would help voters in rural areas who live far from early voting sites and service industry and shift workers whose schedules make voting in person difficult and would come in handy when there are public health concerns such as those related to COVID-19.

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