Louisiana has a good plan on the table for how to conduct one of the biggest elections in years, and it’s the plan that a federal judge ordered the state to adopt, over the objections of Republican legislators.
Let’s not fight with the decision of U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick.
In her ruling on a lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge, she basically directed the state to adopt the plan by which a successful primary and general election were held in the summer.
With modest changes, the summer plan could be replicated on Nov. 3, making voting safer through more widely available mail balloting.
Republican legislators objected, driving Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to put sharp limits on voting by mail. This was rightly blocked by Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Louisiana deserves better than “the plan I thought I could get passed” by the Legislature, as Ardoin called his rollback of the summer plan’s provisions.
The court’s ruling is a victory for the governor and a blow to extremists who want to conduct Louisiana’s government processes in response to right-wing radio programs and irresponsible tweets from You-Know-Who.
We are generally skeptical of judges who step in and countermand the decisions of elected officials, but in this case Judge Dick was forced to act, and her remedy was to impose a set of election rules that worked well just a few weeks ago.
An appeal to drag out this struggle to limit voting participation not only makes the Louisiana Republican Party look bad, it puts state election officials in more of a bind than they would be otherwise.
Whatever happens, it’s not going to be a normal election.
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Laura reaches from Cameron Parish on the coast to the Arkansas line. And the fears of COVID-19 infection are real.
Even with the sharply limited vote-by-mail process now under way, two to three times as many absentee mail ballots have already been requested. That isn’t voter fraud, it is legitimate concern about the health and safety of going to the polls during a pandemic, in an election which is likely to draw a large turnout.
Ardoin has been working hard, under the limited authority he has, to make polling places safer, putting some precincts in larger venues where social distancing is possible. But Ardoin’s authority is limited without agreement on the summer plan. Further, it’s a big election, disasters or pandemics notwithstanding.
Louisiana has become Washington, D.C., with ideological tantrums replacing our values, including the sanctity and obligations of the voting booth. Judge Dick offers a saner path forward and a time-wasting appeal would hurt the process. Let’s not go there.