FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–April 22, 2020

Louisiana Legislature to Consider New Emergency Election Plan This Morning

After failing to approve Secretary of State Kye Ardoin’s emergency election plan last week, the Senate and the House & Governmental Affairs Committees are set to consider a new version this morning.

NEW ORLEANS, LA | April 22, 2020—After getting his initial emergency election plan shot down by the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee last Wednesday over unfounded concerns about “voter fraud,” Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin will return to the Committee this morning, at 10:00 a.m., to introduce a new version of that plan. The plan will apply to the upcoming Presidential primary (July 11) and municipal (August 15) elections.

In the past week, Sec. Ardoin worked with Gov. Edwards, Attorney General Jeff Landry, and legislative leaders to craft this latest plan. It still includes some version of many of the measures we called for in the ‘Protect Democracy’ section of our Roadmap to Recovery–a 17-page plan for an equitable, people-centered recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that we developed in concert with nearly 30 advocacy organizations–but falls short of what we’d hoped to see enacted.

“In particular, we are concerned that this new plan doesn’t address the health and safety concerns of frontline workers, including our health care, public transportation, sanitation, and food-service professionals,” said PCEJ Executive Director Ashley Shelton. “These folks are keeping our society afloat right now, and they’re disproportionately Black and Brown folks. Many of them will not be covered by the absentee voting options in the Secretary’s new plan, so they will have to choose between their right to vote and their fear of spreading the virus because they are essential workers who are on the frontline being exposed to it.”

By removing certain groups of people from the original list of those who would be eligible to request an absentee ballot–including people who are over 60 years old, under a stay-at-home order, unable to appear in public due to concern of virus transmission or exposure, or caring for a child because school or daycare is closed–this new plan could shut a lot of people out of the voting process. 

“Given the history of racial voter suppression in Louisiana and the South, we worry that the effect of this new plan will be widespread disenfranchisement,” said PCEJ Director of Strategic Operations Morgan Shannon. “We’ve already seen that communities of color in Louisiana are suffering greater harm from this pandemic than their white counterparts, with death rates that far outpace our share of the state’s population. This could lead to greater fear in our communities about showing up to polling locations, and very reasonably so.”  

The Power Coalition is also concerned that the negotiations over this plan were largely political, with little input from public health officials. And we object to highlighting punitive measures that could unnecessarily confuse or scare people away from voting absentee–e.g., it seems like overkill to put things like “hard labor” in bold-type directly above the line where people sign their signatures on the absentee ballot.

However, it is likely that this plan will pass tomorrow. As a civic and voter engagement organization, we want to expand voting access. This plan does accomplish that, in a limited way, and is an improvement over what would have been in place had nothing been done at all. We commend the parties involved for being able to quickly come back from last week’s disagreement to forge a compromise in time to put these measures into place for this summer’s elections.

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   

What: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice reacts to Secretary of State Ardoin’s new emergency election plan, which he will present to the Senate and the House & Governmental Affairs Committees this morning.

When: April 22, 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

Featured photo by Jason Redmond