The League of Women Voters of Lafayette is calling on local government leaders to make early voting more accessible to residents, citing problems early voters encountered when trying to cast ballots in last fall's election at the parish’s sole early voting site.
The League says the space on the third floor of the Court Annex building at 1010 Lafayette Street, where the Registrar of Voters Office is located, is too small to accommodate the crowds in high turnout elections like those for president and governor.
And, they say, it is difficult to get to for people who are handicapped, in wheelchairs or have other physical challenges.
A delegation from the League outlined their concerns about the way early voting is being handle dduring the Lafayette Consolidated Council’s budget review process earlier this month.
“Democracy succeeds or fails on the ability of the electorate to actively participate in the election process,” Lafayette League spokesperson,Kathleen Espinoza said in a news release. “As a community we should not underestimate the important responsibility of the Lafayette Consolidated Government to facilitate fair, accessible elections for the people of Lafayette Parish.”
The League said last fall’s election “clearly showed early voting, at least for gubernatorial and presidential elections, can no longer be held at 1010 Lafayette Street” because the site is too small.
The League cited the following issues and concerns:
- The interior evacuation stairwell used, all at the same time, as the way to get to the 3rd floor voting machines, the waiting line to vote, and the exit for those who had already voted.
- The small lobby on the ground floor being over crowded with those in wheelchairs or on walkers or canes waiting for the two small elevators, with those coming off the elevators, with the security guards, with those going in and out of the stairwell, and those coming in the main entrance.
- Insufficient handicapped-accessible parking along the high curbs and narrow sidewalks of downtown.
- Accessibility difficulties for those lacking the stamina to climb stairs to the 3rd floor or to stand so long in line, but who were not visibly disabled nor had proof of disability id.
- Accessibility issues for obese voters.
- A line going down the sidewalk outside of people waiting to get into the building.
- The likely disaster that would occur should the building need emergency evacuating of the voters and the LCG staff working on all 3 floors.
The League notes that Lafayette Parish is now the fifth most populated parish in the state, but other parishes, including Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany, each have three or or four early voting sitez.
"Eleven other parishes smaller in population in Lafayette, including St. Martin and St. Mary Parishes have more than one early voting station," League officials noted.
For information about the non-partisan and non-profit League of Women Voters of Lafayette and its mission, visit www.lwv-lafayette.org.