The Advocate recently published a guest column by Garey Forster that made several good points regarding the ongoing debate on the election process in Louisiana. Forster concluded that “Louisiana successfully conducted elections in July and August during the COVID-19 crisis.”
He said those elections were conducted using an Emergency Election Plan which included “an emergency COVID-19 absentee ballot, expanded early voting from seven to 13 days, added sanitary precautions such as social distancing and personal protective equipment use for poll workers.” True.
All of that made sense. And it worked. On that, I agree.
But Forster lost his way when he said the recent emergency plan proposed by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin for the November election is an expansion of early voting from “seven to 10 days.” In fact, Ardoin’s November plan reduces early voting to 10 days from the 13 days allotted in July.
Forster also claims the new plan “expands” the current list of people eligible to vote by mail to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. While it is true, those who have tested positive are a new addition; Forster fails to mention that everyone else permitted to request a vote-by-mail ballot in the July emergency plan has now been deleted.
The biggest irony of all? Forster notes the new emergency plan will be submitted to the Legislature for approval “by mail ballot.” Go figure.
Forster’s argument really gets twisted into knots when he tries to blame Ardoin’s lacking plan on Gov. John Bel Edwards. Edwards has been clear from the beginning that he does not believe Ardoin’s November plan adequately accounts for the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Louisiana citizens should not have to choose between their personal safety and their right to vote.
The Emergency Election Plan enacted for the July elections was not perfect. Many people on both sides of the political spectrum believed it either went too far or didn’t go far enough. But even Forster and I can agree that the July plan worked well. Ardoin and the Legislature should allow provisions of that plan to work again in November.