UPDATE: Gov. Edwards responds to federal judge ruling on mail voting access for Nov. 3 election

Louisiana News

UPDATE: BATON ROUGE, La. (KTVE/KARD) —  Gov. John Bel Edwards issued the following statement today on the ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, which supported his request to implement a safer emergency election plan for Louisiana, including more options to vote by mail, in line with how elections were held in June and July in the state.

In the ruling, Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick called Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s efforts to change the successful emergency election plan for the July and August elections “bumbling attempts to fix what was not broken.”

Governor Edwards stated:

“Today’s ruling is a huge victory not only for the health and safety of the people of Louisiana, but also for their voting rights and our democracy. No one should have to risk their health or their life to vote, and I am relieved that the court agrees. Simply put: COVID-19 remains a serious problem in Louisiana and voting should not be a super spreader event.

It was obvious to anyone who pays attention to the COVID crisis that the failure to put forth an election plan to protect voters at risk for COVID-19 was inappropriate and unsafe. More fundamentally, as noted by Judge Shelly Dick, ‘the state’s failure to provide accommodation for pandemic-affected voters is likely unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on Plaintiffs’ right to vote.’ The failure to implement the very same plan that was submitted by the Secretary of State for the July and August elections would have caused voters to either forgo voting or disregard medical guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. It further would have required people who are at high risk for serious COVID complications and even for those who are exposed and should be in quarantine to risk exposing others by voting in person. Thankfully, Judge Dick agreed that this is unacceptable. 

The Secretary of State should accept the Court’s ruling and immediately implement the election plan for the upcoming election in November, as ordered. It is unfortunate that thousands of taxpayer dollars were wasted by the Attorney General defending this woefully inadequate emergency election plan. The taxpayers and voters in Louisiana deserve better. Between COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura, our state has much work to do before early voting begins. I pledge to support this effort to ensure that all Louisianans can safely vote, in person or by mail if they qualify.”

To read the ruling, click here.

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — A federal judge Wednesday ruled that Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s Nov. 3 election plan would not allow ample access to absentee voting.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s release of a 44-page decision comes a week after she heard testimony from both sides.

Plaintiffs against Ardoin’s plan have suggested the state let more people vote by mail, instead of at public polling sites, in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. They have recommended giving mail-in ballots to those with COVID-19 symptoms, caregivers and those with higher health risks.

Defendants in the state’s election office have contended that widespread absentee voting would delay the vote-counting process.

“The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ testimony clearly establishes that the state’s maintenance of limited absentee by mail voting imposes a burden on their right to vote,” Dick wrote. “The burden on the right to vote is further supported by significant record evidence.”

Ardoin’s plan would only expand mail-in voting access to voters who test positive for COVID-19 between early voting and Election Day. Voters eligible to vote absentee before the coronavirus pandemic would still be eligible.

Defendants may appeal Dick’s decision before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.

Louisiana is one of six states that require a state-approved excuse to acquire a mail-in ballot.

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