MITCHELL: Louisiana Takes the Right Approach to Pandemic Voting

Editor’s Note: a guest post from attorney Cleta Mitchell on the Louisiana legislature’s decision to support an emergency plan for elections in July and August, presented in the spirit of balance. The Hayride’s official position on the subject is a different one.

As liberal activists take to the courts, using the COVID-19 as a pretext for upending state election laws, Louisiana’s officials are following a different and wiser route.

The April 4, 2020 presidential preference and federal primary election and the May 9, 2020 municipal general elections have already been delayed respectively to July 11, 2020 and August 15, 2020, by successive emergency orders of the Governor.

A bipartisan effort among Gov. John Bel Edwards,  Attorney General Jeff Landry, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and state legislative leaders from both parties have jointly negotiated a plan which establishes an orderly process for conducting the delayed 2020 federal and municipal primary elections while maintaining the key components of Louisiana’s election law framework.

The goal of the plan is to conduct the summer elections in a slightly different manner to ensure compliance with health and safety guidelines, but without eliminating the state’s long established systems for absentee voting.

The essential components of the plan include an orderly process for identifying additional polling places to maintain safe distancing requirements, and relocating polling places away from nursing homes and senior centers, where the populations are high risk of coronavirus, with advance notice to voters of relocated polling places.

In addition, the reasons for requesting an absentee ballot are expanded solely to include particular COVID-19 related reasons, requiring the request to specify an underlying medical condition as specified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a medically necessary quarantine or isolation order as directed by a health care provider.

The expanded COVID-19 reasons for requesting an absentee ballot are temporary for these elections only.  All other requirements of Louisiana’s existing absentee ballot procedures remain in effect.

The procedures for requesting, returning, processing, and tabulating absentee ballots are transparent and provide for both accessibility and system integrity.

Committees of both houses of the legislature have approved the plan which is now pending before the full legislature.   The legislature should approve the plan.  While the additional early voting days are not optimum under normal circumstances, these are not normal circumstances.

The plan has been narrowly drawn to protect the integrity of Louisiana’s election process while ensuring the health and safety of all voters.   The plan carefully considers the entire election process, rather than ignoring the issues and leaving decisions about the 2020 election process to the arbitrary whim of judges in emergency lawsuits.

Other states would do well to follow Louisiana’s lead.

Cleta Mitchell is an attorney in the Washington, DC office of Foley & Lardner, LLP and is Chairman of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a national public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the integrity of America’s elections. 

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