Damage from Hurricane Ida was so great that Louisiana may delay for a month both the October and November elections.
The Oct. 9 ballot is full of primaries for three legislative seats, along with the mayor, sheriff, assessor, and seven city council members in New Orleans. It also has four Constitutional amendments.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin met Tuesday afternoon to talk over the problems in southeast Louisiana caused by the storm. Much of the region is still without power, some precinct locations are damaged, the postal service hasn’t resumed regular deliveries everywhere. Additionally, the Secretary of State's Office reaches out to nursing home residents to help them with absentee voting and many of those facilities have been evacuated.
State government operations aren’t expected to get back to normal in many parishes until after early voting begins on Saturday, Sept. 25. With the exception of Sunday, Sept. 26, early voting is scheduled to continue through Oct. 2 from 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. A general election, to decide the outcomes if the primaries do not result in one candidate winning outright, is scheduled for Nov. 13.
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The storm affected 42% of the state’s registered voters, Ardoin said.
Ardoin said he spoke to local registrars and clerks of court – including those in the parishes with the most damage as well as Orleans Parish, which will have the biggest election filling most of the city's high level posts, including mayor, sheriff, assessor, clerk for criminal courts and city council members. “They were telling us the problems they were encountering and the damage they saw,” Ardoin said, and what it would take to get the election going in time.
Legal deadlines are looming. The deadline for in-person registration is Wednesday. For nursing home residents the deadline is Thursday. And by Friday election commissioners across the state have to be chosen, though many local officials don't where all their commissioners are. In 11 days, Ardoin’s office has to publish the locations of the polling places.
On top of all that, Ardoin said people trying to tear out sheetrock or repair their homes or dog assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or otherwise recover from the storm, really shouldn't have to also worry about a pending election.
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Ardoin proposed delaying the election a month – pushing the Oct. 9 primary to Nov. 13 and delaying the general election until Dec. 11. “That gives us enough time for our locals to get their bearings,” Ardoin said.
Edwards said he needed to study the law and the legislation. He acknowledged he couldn’t wait too long.
“I did not make a decision” immediately, Edwards said. “One is going to be forthcoming soon.”
Ardoin said he understands that all the i's need to be dotted and the t's need to be crossed, but got the impression the governor would order postponing the elections sometime this week.
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The state last went to extraordinary election efforts after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, including allowing evacuees to cast ballots from Texas and other states. The postponement in Katrina/Rita was far longer than a month. But Ardoin said once they get a handle on how many voters remain evacuated to new addresses because of Ida, he’ll draft an emergency plan that address displaced voters.
On every ballot across the state Oct. 9 are four Constitutional amendments, two of which are key components of the bipartisan comprise that would revamp of Louisiana’s tax system that were passed during the legislative earlier this year.
Amendment 1 would lead to centralizing the collections of sales taxes, which are gathered on a local level now under the state Constitution. The change in language would allow the state to set up the system that would collect the taxes on sales and distribute the local portion of the proceeds, rather than the other way around.
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Proponents argue the system would streamline collections, lower administrative costs, and align Louisiana with other states as Internet sales across state lines increase. Opponents fear that taking away local governments’ Constitutional ability to collect their own taxes could jeopardize the amounts local voters have approved.
Amendment 2 would drop maximum personal income tax rates from 6% to 4.75% and allow legislators to set a permanent new rate of 4.25% in statute, where it could be changed easier. The amendment also would eliminate the deduction on state tax returns for income taxes paid the federal government. Louisiana is one of the few states that allow that exemption and it comprised $795.5 million of the $6.5 billion of forgiven taxes that otherwise would go into state budgets, according to a Louisiana Department of Revenue report.
About eight tax revamp measures are dependent on these two amendments being approved by a majority of the participating voters statewide.