BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Gov. John Bel Edwards filed a memorandum Wednesday in support of a federal lawsuit over COVID-19 protections for the November presidential election, asking the judge to direct Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to implement the same emergency plan that was used for the recent elections in July and August.
During the July presidential primary and August municipal elections, early voting was increased by six days and mail-in balloting options were expanded for some people at higher risk for the virus as part of a plan that Edwards supported. For the fall elections, Ardoin proposed a much more limited adjustment in voting rules that would have modestly expand early voting, but still required most people to cast their ballots in person in the pandemic.
Edwards rejected that plan last week.
On Wednesday afternoon, Ardoin announced that there would be no additional early voting days and no extended polling hours, “because the Governor has indicated he will not change his position.”
“In light of the Governor’s decision to reject the plan on these issues,” Ardoin laid out a series of steps he says he will take instead. Those steps include ensuring poll workers wear masks, abide by social distancing, and clean machines. He also announced his intent to declare a state of emergency in order to allow the relocation of polling places from senior centers “and other facilities where operating polling creates a public safety issue, and to notify voters of any polling place changes.”
“The Governor refused to accept the Secretary of State’s plan for the November election because it directly contradicts the guidance of the CDC and medical experts and would require people under quarantine or who are symptomatic and those who are at high risk for serious complications and their caregivers to vote in person,” Edwards said in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon. “It also reduces the number of early voting days from what was offered in July and August.”
The federal lawsuit naming both Edwards and Ardoin was filed in August on behalf of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and three individual voters. It challenges both Louisiana’s restrictions on the use of absentee mail-in ballots and its reduction of the early voting period from thirteen days during the July and August 2020 elections to seven for the November and December 2020 elections.
“Simply put, Secretary Ardoin’s plan for the November and December elections does not adequately protect the constitutional right to vote,” Edwards said in his memorandum to the court in support of the suit.
“Further, it is contrary to the recommendations of the CDC and public health experts,” Edwards added his statement on the memorandum Wednesday. “We can and must do better. I am hopeful that the Court will find a way to order that we implement a safe election plan for the fall elections. At a minimum, this should be the same election plan that we just used for the July and August elections to protect the health and safety of the people of Louisiana.”
“States like Kentucky and Alabama have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing much greater access to absentee balloting, but under the Secretary of State’s plan, Louisiana would have gone in the wrong direction,” Edwards said.
“Nothing about the Secretary of State’s emergency election plan takes into account the scope of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Louisianans should not have to risk their lives to vote, which is exactly what will happen if tens of thousands of Louisianans with medical conditions that put them at high risk for COVID complications are forced to vote in person in November and December. We owe it to the people of Louisiana to get this emergency election plan right, and the Secretary of State’s plan is just 100 percent wrong.”
Click here to read the governor’s memorandum.
A hearing in the lawsuit is set to begin on September 8.