Louisiana officials feud over generators for polling places

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans’ Democratic mayor and Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state argued Sunday over who’s responsible for providing generators if some polling places didn’t have electricity on Election Day but by the end of the day it appeared all polling stations would have power.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Sunday that up to 11 precincts in the city could still be without power Tuesday, nearly a week after Hurricane Zeta took down power lines. She said Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and his commissioner of elections, Sherri Wharton Hadskey, “are refusing to provide support for generators” for those precincts.

“In failing to fulfill its duty, the Secretary of State’s office risks disenfranchising Orleans residents and threatens to suppress the vote,” Cantrell said in a news release.

Ardoin responded in his own news release Sunday: “It is unfortunate that politicians like Mayor Cantrell … have responded to Hurricane Zeta by trying to score cheap political points instead of being part of any solution.”

Cantrell said the Secretary of State’s office “has taken the unprecedented position” that the city of New Orleans must use its employees and money to provide generators for polling places.

Ardoin issued a statement Saturday saying that Louisiana polling places without power would receive generators for Election Day, but it did not specify whether providing the generators would be a state or local responsibility. A spokesman for Ardoin’s office did not immediately provide a response to questions about it from The Associated Press on Sunday.

Later Sunday, the city issued a statement saying that Entergy New Orleans was now estimating that three polling stations could be without power Tuesday — down from the 11 earlier estimated. Portable generators and lighting for two of the locations was being provided by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Secretary of State’s Office, and Entergy New Orleans would provide the generator for the third site, the statement said. Entergy would transport and operate the generators provided by the state to the other two locations, the city said.

The city was expecting that all original polling places would be in operation come Tuesday.

Ardoin has publicly supported President Donald Trump’s reelection bid, declaring at a November 2019 rally that Louisiana “will win with Donald Trump.” Cantrell endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, in August.

Zeta hit southeastern Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane Wednesday before sweeping through parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The storm initially knocked out power for about 2.5 million customers. More than 343,500 outages were still reported in those states Sunday, according to poweroutage.us, though it was unclear whether all were because of Zeta.

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson said Friday that the state emergency management agency is on standby to provide support to any county that needs it before or on Election Day.

Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager for the Georgia Secretary of State, said Friday that he’s been in contact with Georgia Power and with the electric membership cooperatives and expects power to be restored to the state’s 2,419 polling places by Tuesday. Sterling also said the Secretary of State’s office was talking to the state emergency management agency about backup generators.