FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–April 14, 2020

Louisiana Advocacy Groups to Monitor Secretary of State’s Emergency Election Plan

More than two dozen Louisiana advocacy organizations plan to protect democracy by fighting for the elections and voting measures they outlined in a recently released list of comprehensive policy demands and ideas for an equitable COVID-19 response and recovery.

NEW ORLEANS, LA | April 14, 2020—This past Good Friday, April 10, at about 5:00 p.m., the Secretary of State and the House & Governmental Affairs Committee announced they would be holding a hearing this coming Wednesday, April 15, at 11:00 a.m. The timing of that announcement seemed suspicious–neither government agencies nor private businesses have been known to save good news for late on a Friday, especially a holiday Friday.

As a statewide civic engagement organization, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ–http://powercoalition.org) is never in favor of announcements that appear to be intended to hide the government’s actions. We would urge Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to try to avoid taking a similar approach in the future. However, we also understand that these are extraordinary times, which means it can be difficult for any of us to stick to standard protocols. 

The announced purpose of the hearing is, according to the official announcement, to:

  • Discuss and consider the Secretary of State’s determination and reasons therefor that the public health emergency caused by COVID-19 impairs the 2020 presidential preference primary election and the 2020 municipal general election to the extent that an emergency election plan is necessary to ensure maximum citizen participation in the elections
  • Discuss and consider the written emergency plan for the elections submitted by the Secretary of State in accordance with R.S. 18:401.3

“To our knowledge, the Secretary’s plan has not been publicly released, so we haven’t had a chance to review it in detail,” said Ashley Shelton, Executive Director of PCEJ. “But his acknowledgement of these extraordinary circumstances and desire to ‘ensure maximum citizen participation in the elections’ gives us hope that he will be instituting some or even all of the policies we laid out in the Roadmap to Recovery that we released yesterday, along with dozens of other advocacy organizations (see list below).”

The policies laid out in the ‘Protect Democracy’ section of that Roadmap, which was developed in concert with several organizations listed below, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, called on the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the legislature to:

  • Expand Early Voting by at least one week and authorize parishes to establish additional in-person Early Voting sites 
  • Expand voting by mail to every Louisianan either through legislation (House Bill 419) or order of the Governor
  • Mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter, or mail absentee ballot applications to every registered voter who doesn’t have a Louisiana driver’s license/ID (i.e., those who are not eligible to apply for an absentee ballot online)
  • Permit all registered voters to request an absentee ballot from their county election official over the phone or via email, and put systems in place to handle those requests
  • Allow any voter or their designee to drop off their absentee ballot at any polling place or in secure drop boxes at accessible locations 
  • Allow any person designated by the voter (including staff of nursing homes and senior centers, if the voter resides in these facilities) to pick up the voter’s absentee ballot and drop that absentee ballot off by the close of polls on Election Day
  • Make absentee ballots available until Election Day, and accept absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within 10 days of Election Day, or received in office on Election Day if submitted in person
  • Make curbside voting available to any voter unable or unwilling to enter the polling place on Election Day due to COVID-19 concerns
  • Anticipate that absentee ballot utilization will increase dramatically during the 2020 election cycle, even without the adoption of no-excuse absentee balloting
  • To address higher voting-by-mail volume, allow early processing of ballots before Election Day
  • Recruit additional staff to process this larger quantity of absentee ballots, and communicate with the public and news media that a larger quantity of absentee ballots could lead to delays in reporting vote totals
  • Provide voters notice and an opportunity to address and cure issues with absentee ballots by adopting policies and practices that provide voters with timely notice of signature mismatches and other technical defects on their ballots/ballot envelopes, along with an opportunity to cure those defects remotely
  • Undertake extensive voter education to ensure voters know how to vote during the coronavirus epidemic
  • Ensure healthy, clean, safe polling locations (e.g., deep cleaning, demarcate six-foot spacing)
  • Train poll workers on sanitary measures
  • Actively communicate all health and safety measures to voters so they feel comfortable and confident with going to the polls

The Power Coalition has been working on many of these issues for years, including expanding vote-by-mail to all Louisianans, as part of a broader effort to expand voting access.

“Voters shouldn’t have to choose between exercising their constitutional rights and protecting their health and safety,” said Rep. Mandie Landry (House District 91-New Orleans). “I was proud to work with the Power Coalition on expanded vote-by-mail before the pandemic. Given the emergency we now face as a nation, passing no-excuse vote by mail in Louisiana is more important than ever. Over half the states in this country allow it, and it’s time that Louisiana joined them.”

The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice works to build voice and power in traditionally ignored communities, with a focus on communities of color. We are a coalition of groups from across Louisiana whose mission is to organize in impacted communities, educate and turn out voters, and fight for policies that create a more equitable and just system in Louisiana.

 

Who

Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, Voice of the Experienced (VOTE), Agenda for Children, Center for Planning Excellence, Fair Districts Louisiana, Families and Friends of, Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA), Healthy Gulf, Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana, Louisiana Appleseed Center for Law & Policy, Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) , Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC), Louisiana Progress, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice (NOWCRJ), Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), Orleans Public Education Network, Oxfam America, Southern Poverty Law Center, Step Up Louisiana, VAYLA, Women With A Vision (WWAV)   

What: In response to last-minute scheduling of elections committee hearing, Louisiana advocacy groups pledge to monitor the proceedings and fight to protect democracy, including advocating for the demands laid out in their previously released Roadmap to Recovery

When: April 14, 2020

Contacts:

Ashley Shelton, Executive Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (225) 802-2435, ashelton@powercoalition.org

Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (504) 256-8196, prb@powercoalition.org