State Rep. Marcus Hunter will seek an expedited hearing when he files a lawsuit challenging shortened early voting for the Dec. 6 elections.
“I’m hoping to have it heard Tuesday or Wednesday before the judges take off for Thanksgiving,” said Hunter, D-West Monroe.
Hunter objects to Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s eliminating two official state holidays from the normal seven days of early voting — Thursday for Thanksgiving and Friday for Acadian Day.
Hunter said the election, which includes the U.S. Senate race runoff at the top of the ballot, is too important. The Senate race features veteran Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy. Voters also need to determine congressmen in the Baton Rouge-based 6th Congressional District and the 5th Congressional District in Hunter’s area.
The New Orleans area still needs to choose its member on the Public Service Commission, Shreveport is picking a mayor, and seats on school boards and district court benches are on the ballot around the state.
Early voting started Saturday and will continue through this Saturday, except for the two holidays.
Nearly 50,000 people “early voted” on Saturday’s opening day. East Baton Rouge Parish topped the turnout with 4,608, followed by St. Tammany with 4,255; Orleans, 3,705; Jefferson, 3,055; Calcasieu, 1,816; and Lafayette, 1,739.
Election officials reported Monday that 2.94 million registered voters will be eligible to participate statewide. That’s 12,175 more than were eligible for the November vote.
Hunter said attached to the lawsuit are copies of four laws overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature that extend state residents’ opportunities to vote. Some extend the hours and others the days of balloting.
“It’s clear the legislative intent is to expand opportunities for voters,” Hunter said. “The secretary of state has chosen in his ministerial capacity to limit voting.”
Hunter argues that Schedler has the authority to require employees of parish registrars of voters to work on the holidays. He said the governor’s official proclamations for each holiday provide discretion for essential employees to stay on the job.
Schedler said he will not circumvent the state law that gives registrars’ offices the holidays. He also cited eight other instances where early voting has been suspended because of holidays ranging from the Fourth of July to Good Friday and Veterans Day.
Hunter said none of those examples involved a statewide election.
Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.