National Voter Registration Day is an annual event aimed at urging Americans to sign up to vote. It just stands to reason that on this day of all days, they should be able to.
So there was understandable outrage on Sept. 22 when, at least for a while, some people who tried to register through the Louisiana Secretary of State’s web site were told it was down for maintenance.
One of many angered by the turn of events was New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who said on Twitter that it was “beyond reprehensible. Absolute dereliction of duty, at such a critical time for our City and our nation. The LA SoS owes more to the people he serves.”
She’s right. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin does owe more to Louisianans. The following day, he admitted as much, calling the maintenance planned in advance for this particular day “an unfortunate error for which I take full responsibility.”
We’re prepared to believe the botched timing was the result of haplessness rather than bad intent, despite accusations by some Democrats that Ardoin, a Republican, intended to suppress Democratic participation. Still, the fact that he’s both the steward of our elections and a participant in the fierce debate over ballot access means he needs to be extra careful not to tilt the scales, or even appear to.
It was Ardoin, after all, who authored a pandemic voting plan for the fall election that severely restricted allowances for more mail voting — excluding, for example, people with preexisting conditions who might find in-person voting too dangerous. He admitted that he crafted the plan to satisfy conservative conspiracy theories in the Legislature, who echoed President Donald Trump’s rhetoric that voting by mail isn’t secure despite a lack of evidence supporting their position. His plan was struck down by a federal judge who ordered the state to revert to less rigid restrictions in place during summer voting.
Whether or not more widespread registration actually bolsters Democrats is really beside the point, because promoting participation from as many Americans as possible is the ultimate nonpartisan goal. That’s why National Voter Registration Day is backed by a long list of organizations, including the National Association of Secretaries of State, which represents Ardoin and his peers around the country. It’s why Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry sent out a tweet encouraging his followers to participate.
It’s also why registering should be easy and understandable; it should never become an obstacle course, as it unfortunately was for some people last week. We hope those who were frustrated by the process try again.
The good news is that there’s still plenty of time before the Nov. 3 presidential election. The deadline to register in person or mail a registration form is Monday, Oct. 5. For online registration, the deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 13.
We encourage everyone who’s eligible to sign up. And obviously, we urge Ardoin to make sure that they can.