BR.broomepresser.082520 CROP TS 29.jpg (copy)

East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome asked Tuesday to use the Baton Rouge River Center as a mega-precinct for early voting and the Nov. 3 election.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has been pushing local officials to find bigger precinct locations, which often are located in small spaces, for in person balloting. He has been in talks with courts trying to relocate courthouse precincts in larger courtrooms rather than in their usual lobby locations to handle voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am asking for your support and approval to use the Baton Rouge River Center as an additional polling location for East Baton Rouge Parish. Doing so will allow for adequate social distancing that may not be available at other locations,” Broome wrote in a letter.

“Our office is happy to work with local governing authorities should they choose to consolidate precincts or change an early voting site,” Ardoin said in an emailed statement.

Ardoin’s office will have to vet the facility to ensure technical requirements are met, then the facility must be certified by the secretary of state as compliant with the Help America Vote Act.

Steve Carter, one of Broome’s opponents in the Nov. 3 election, said such a request is routine and provided that the location meets all the parameters set out by Ardoin, he had no problem with easing voting.

Broome also criticized Ardoin's proposed emergency elections plan. Ardoin’s proposal limits the use of absentee mail ballots, requiring voters with underlying medical conditions, caretakers and others physically go to the polls in order to participate. “Unfortunately, I am concerned that the plan you have submitted to date does not make this possible,” she continued.

East Baton Rouge Parish has had 14,253 cases of COVID-19 and on Tuesday 25 patients were on ventilators and 109 were in the hospital.

Louisiana’s 2.9 million voters in the upcoming election will choose a president, a U.S. Senator; all six congressmen; two Louisiana Supreme Court justices; two Public Service Commission members; several state appellate court judges; all the state district court judges and prosecutors, along with various local posts; plus some amendments to the state Constitution.

The large indoor spaces are expected to provide enough room to accommodate social distancing measures for in-person voting. Both Democrats and Republicans back the idea as an alternative to mail-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of municipalities around the country have been setting up the polling stations, covering several precincts, large enough to allow voters to social distance while waiting to cast their ballots. San Antonio anointed its AT&T Center a mega precinct on Tuesday. But smaller, rural areas, such as Brunswick County, North Carolina, also are in the process of setting up mega-precincts.

Twenty National Basketball Association teams have signed on to transform their facilities into large voting stations.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.