Louisiana’s Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin consulted Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on how to plan a safe, secure election amid very real public health concerns over the spread of the coronavirus across the state.
The plan he produced is not a permanent change but a one-time emergency fix for spring elections being postponed to July and August, for presidential primaries, party offices and an assortment of local matters.
As he pointed out, it satisfies neither those on the left who want to bring no-excuses vote by mail to Louisiana — something he told the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee would not happen on his watch — and those on the right who cry danger at the notion of easing remote ballot access.
“This decision was done without the political ramifications in mind,” he said.
Yet political ramifications were apparently very much on the minds of the committee members who heard his testimony Wednesday. Despite Ardoin’s own party bona fides, his argument that the changes represent a “slight” expansion of what’s already on the books and his tight deadline of April 24 to start acquiring scarce supplies he’d need for the change, five committee Republicans rejected his plea and told him to come back with another plan. Just one Democrat backed the emergency measure, and while a House committee expressed support, those five senators have thrown the election into doubt.
Their arguments zeroed on the popular conservative talking point that remote voting can lead to rampant fraud, which has been debunked by numerous factcheckers and is belied by Louisiana’s strong record of holding secure elections when absentee balloting is already a reality.
The proposal would temporarily expand absentee voting so that people have more allowable reasons to partake. Among the changes: It would apply to people 60 and over, rather than the current 65. It would add a number of reasons connected to the pandemic, from infection to quarantine or stay-at-home orders to caretaking responsibilities for children whose schools or day cares are closed.
It would also offer a catch-all reason that Ardoin said the governor’s office wanted, concern over exposure to COVID-19. That, he explained, would cover people such as his daughter, whose diabetes puts her at higher risk.
The order would also expand early voting and move some polling places that are located at senior centers or residential facilities.
All of these proposed changes are in line with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control to prevent the deadly virus’ spread. They’re also the result of bipartisan negotiation aimed at protecting the sacred right to vote as well as the voters’ personal well-being.
No Louisianan should ever have to choose between the two. And no Louisiana politician should put them in that position, particularly over trumped-up concerns that have no basis in fact.