FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–April 16, 2020

Senate Committee Kills Emergency Election Plan

Yesterday, the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee deferred on voting on the Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s emergency election plan, potentially putting voters’ health and lives at risk during the upcoming presidential primary and municipal elections

NEW ORLEANS, LA | April 16, 2020—Yesterday, Wednesday, April 15, the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee, which convened at 10:00 a.m. to hear Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s emergency election plan, decided to defer on that plan, effectively killing it. The plan would have further delayed the Presidential primary election and municipal elections, extended vote-by-mail options to most Louisianans during the pandemic, and added six more days to Early Voting in order to decrease crowding in polling locations. 

Republicans on the Senate committee voiced strong opposition to expanding voting by mail, in particular, continually citing “voter fraud” as a reason for that opposition, even though that issue has been widely discredited in Louisiana and around the U.S.

“I hear what they’re saying,” Secretary Ardoin told The Advocate’s Sam Karlin, in reference to the committee’s opposition. “I think some of their concerns are not steeped in all the facts that were presented to them today. I’m hoping over time there can be some clarity.”

“The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ–http://powercoalition.org) and our partners fight to make voting safe, fair, and easy to access,” said Ashley Shelton, PCEJ Executive Director. “We are disappointed that the Senate Committee, unlike their counterparts on the House & Governmental Affairs Committee, couldn’t even agree that we are in an emergency situation. Given what we’re seeing in our state and around the world, we thought the Secretary’s plan was pretty common-sense, and it reflected many of the demands we laid out in the Roadmap to Recovery that we released earlier this week.” 

The policies laid out in the ‘Protect Democracy’ section of that Roadmap, which was developed in concert with several organizations listed below 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 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: The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ–http://powercoalition.org) responds to Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee deferring vote on Secretary of State’s emergency election plan.

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