It’s getting a little tiresome writing about Louisiana politics these days. A lot of our readers have likely come to the conclusion that we’re just reflexively bashing Gov. John Bel Edwards’ every action, and that isn’t true.
The problem is that reasoned political analysis of Edwards’ moves results in the same outcome as reflexive bashing. Again and again, the man demonstrates his wrongheaded, dictatorial tendencies by doing things which put him at odds with Louisiana’s other elected officials and move the state further and further away from proper working order.
The latest controversy over Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s plan for the November elections, which would account for the COVID-19 situation without blowing Louisiana open to wholesale mail-in balloting, is a good example of that.
We had said several days ago, when the subject of an emergency plan for November first came up, that going overboard in permitting mail-in balloting would be a disaster Ardoin would regret. We said so for three reasons: first, the Post Office is a very poor choice to contract out Louisiana’s ballot security, something Ardoin publicly echoed. Second, that the Post Office is likely to fail to deliver large numbers of mail-in ballots in time for Election Night, meaning the vote-counting would be delayed and a mess would ensue. And third, that Ardoin had promised he was not going to poison Louisiana’s elections by giving the Hard Left the uncertainty and potential for fraud they’re looking for, and he needed to be careful not to break that promise.
Well, the election plan Ardoin announced on Monday was plenty satisfactory in meeting our concerns. Jeff Sadow amply covered it yesterday…
Basically, he asks to add only three more days to early voting – a constraint dictated by laws dealing with new registration verification – and to those days an extra 90 minutes for that purpose.
Better, Ardoin provided rock solid justifications for ending the nebulous coronavirus excuses for requesting a ballot by mail and the more drastic not in-person options. He noted that fewer than a fifth of mail requests came for that reason, meaning not that much demand appeared anyway (logically, because the more vulnerable age 65-and-older cohort already can request by mail). And, prominently citing data from Wisconsin spring elections, he concluded methods his office has employed to protect election commissioners and voters meant virus transmission would occur at a very low order of probability. He even wants to provide masks for voters without face coverings.
Further, he demonstrated that expanded access to mail balloting would create severe problems. Noting that the fall elections would feature turnout at a much higher level, the infrastructure available, experience from other states, and concerns about timely mail delivery, he correctly surmised the impracticality of the situation. He does argue for letting parish registrars set up ballot dropboxes and extending the time to request an absentee ballot.
Louis Gurvich, the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party who has been quite leery of these various emergency elections plans, concurred that Ardoin’s plan is worthy…
We carefully looked at Secretary Ardoin‘s emergency election plan and found it appropriate to the pandemic situation. His plan allows for a small increase in early voting hours to better accommodate the voting public during this stressful time. It also allows for those with the illness to vote by mail, and there are already several other categories of people who may vote by mail if they so choose.
The LAGOP urges the adoption of this plan as long as there is no further expansion of mail-in balloting. Mail-in ballots are by their very nature susceptible to fraud and accidental loss. Contrary to some politically biased news reporting, the evidence for vote fraud is all around us and increasing every day. The integrity of our elections is of paramount importance and must be preserved. This plan maintains that integrity.
So of course, Edwards had to oppose it.
State law sets up a scenario in which to change how Louisiana would conduct elections, Ardoin would need to seek an emergency declaration and then propose the plan for how to deal with it, which is what he did on Monday.
Yesterday Edwards granted the emergency declaration. Then he dumped all over Ardoin’s plan.
“I want to be crystal clear: you should not mistake me declaring an emergency for this election as approving of the Secretary of State’s election plan, because I do not. I believe that we need emergency procedures in place for this election. I do not believe the Secretary of State’s current plan goes far enough, because it does not take into account the seriousness of this global pandemic and the health and safety of the voters. Simply put: voting should not be a super spreader event.
The current plan includes no exemptions for people who are at high risk for getting ill from COVID or those who live with and care for these people. And, most seriously of all, it doesn’t offer an option for someone who has known exposure to COVID-19 and is in quarantine to vote by mail. So, people who have been advised by doctors not to leave their homes to avoid potentially exposing others would instead either have to not vote in the election or would have to go against the advice of public health experts and leave their homes.
This puts all of us at risk. From our poll workers to our voters, people must have the confidence that they can safely vote. We need to find a solution that works for the public health of our people and also for the health of our democracy. We had an election plan for the past two smaller elections that worked by expanding early voting but also allowing for an expansion of absentee mail in voting. That we wouldn’t continue this for November’s election – the highest profile one of the year – makes absolutely zero sense to me.”
Bear in mind that John Bel Edwards has turned himself into such a Karen that he thinks virtually everything is a “super spreader event.” If he’s so concerned about voting presenting a threat to the state, then perhaps he ought to shut down all the casinos and WalMarts where there are even more people than at polling places.
It also ought to be borne in mind that the emergency plans for July and August he now demands be put in place for November were cooked up when Louisiana was under a stay-at-home order. We’re now two phases beyond that, though this Phase 2 Edwards has us in is Phase 1 in everything but name. Louisiana is a whole lot closer to Phase 3 than to stay-at-home based on current COVID-19 statistics; at some point it’s inevitable that herd immunity will begin to kick in.
And this is August. We’re talking about November.
So what’s going to happen? Well, Ardoin’s plan goes in front of House and Senate committees today and tomorrow, and it will likely move through those committees and be presented to both bodies who’ll likely pass it. Edwards will then veto the plan, and per the emergency rules his veto can’t be overridden.
That will create an impasse.
Nobody needs to do anything at that point. Ardoin can just run a regular election in November with no emergency plan and if anybody complains, they can be directed to one John Bel Edwards whose fault it’ll be if they’re scared about COVID-19 and showing up to vote. But nobody will really complain.
And Ardoin will be sued by the same Hard Left groups who have repeatedly sued him over mail-in balloting. Those suits won’t go anywhere, for the same reason that the suits by closed-down bar owners aren’t going anywhere. The courts are repeatedly giving state government a very wide berth in dealing with circumstances surrounding COVID-19, and if Ardoin says he doesn’t see any reason to propose a more comprehensive mail-in ballot access plan than he already has for the November elections, he’s not going to get overruled by the federal courts. Even if one of the Obama judges at the district level in Baton Rouge or New Orleans does make such a ruling it won’t survive the Fifth Circuit’s review.
That’s how this ought to play out. Edwards is counting on it playing out a different way.
What he’s going for is to create such a hue and cry and to so panic the public over people getting COVID-19 while voting that it’ll pressure Ardoin and the state legislature into knuckling under and essentially offering universal mail-in balloting. Edwards thinks he can buffalo the Secretary of State and the legislative leadership into giving him and the Louisiana Democrat Party those concessions, which he also thinks he’ll be able to make permanent once this election cycle has passed without too much of a disaster.
It’s an extreme bit of gamesmanship, and it’s exceptionally petty. But that’s who Edwards is. The more power he’s given the worse he gets. And after more than a month of essentially unfettered dictatorial governance without much pushback from Louisiana’s Republicans, there isn’t any facet of life or governance in Louisiana not subject to his meddling.
It’s obviously time to clip this guy’s wings, and Ardoin and the leges need to stand firm and tell Edwards to get bent.