FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–September 17, 2020
Federal Judge Rules that Louisiana Must Expand Early Voting, Vote-By-Mail Options
In a decision handed down on Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Shelly Dick ruled that Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin must extend early voting and expand vote-by-mail options for the state’s November and December elections.
NEW ORLEANS, LA | September 17, 2020—On Wednesday, September 16, Judge Shelly Dick of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in the Harding v. Edwards case.
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice (PCEJ) was one of the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which challenged Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin over the Emergency Election Plan he submitted for the November and December elections. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Covington Law Firm represented us, along with three individual plaintiffs and the Louisiana Conference of the NAACP.
“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, adding later in the opinion that, “The Court is not persuaded by Defendants’ conclusory assertion that their interest in preventing voter fraud – which Defendant Secretary Ardoin testified only four months ago is ‘a rare occurrence’ – is weighty enough to justify their roll back of COVID-19-specific allowances for mail voting. The line that has been drawn by Defendants is not a rational one.”
“I am so proud to lead the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, a people-centered coalition that works to protect and expand democracy. As voting rights advocates, we want everyone to have full access to democracy,” said Power Coalition for Equity and Justice Executive Director Ashley Shelton. “Judge Dick’s decision moves Louisiana in that direction, and puts us more in line with the election rules that almost every other state has instituted in response to the pandemic. Now it’s our turn, as citizens, to take advantage of this opportunity and turn out to vote in historic numbers. Our vote is our voice. It’s our power. We can’t miss the opportunity to exercise it. Thankfully, it will be easier to exercise that right in the wake of this decision.”
“If even one more person is able to vote safely because of this ruling, then I’m happy,” said Jasmine Pogue, who was one of the individual plaintiffs in the suit. “I come from a long line of Black women who have fought for their rights and the rights of others, so I felt like it was my duty to speak out against this injustice.”
“Black women have always led the fight to attain full and equal access to democracy,” according to PCEJ Director of Strategic Partnerships Morgan Shannon. “And Black women continue to be the most critical voice for democracy, civil liberties, and freedom in this country. The Power Coalition’s involvement in this lawsuit, which was supported by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, both of which are Black, female-led organizations, illustrates that when folks follow the lead of Black women, we all move toward greater equity and justice.”
Judge Dick’s ruling will expand early voting from seven days to 10 days, and it will carry over the list of vote-by-mail excuses that were in place for the July and August elections. Sec. Ardoin’s proposed plan only allowed people to vote by mail if they received a positive Covid diagnosis.
This ruling might not be the final step in this process, since Sec. Ardoin and/or Attorney General Jeff Landry have the option to appeal. But we hope, given the time limits involved, they will choose to accept Judge Dick’s decision and move forward with implementing its requirements.
If this decision does in fact hold, as we expect it will, here are the new early voting dates and the five additional reasons someone can apply to vote-by-mail:
- Early voting: Friday, October 16 – Tuesday, October 27 (except Sundays)
- Vote-by-mail excuses (Note: these excuses are in addition to the standard reasons that someone can request an absentee ballot in Louisiana):
- At higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions
- Subject to a medically necessary quarantine or isolation as a result of COVID-19
- Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns
- Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis
- Caring for an individual who is subject to a medically necessary quarantine or isolation order as a result of COVID-19 or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice works to build voice and power in traditionally ignored communities. 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.
What: Power Coalition for Equity and Justice wins lawsuit against Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin
When: September 17, 2020
Ashley Shelton, Executive Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (225) 802-2435, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, (504) 256-8196, email@example.com