Louisiana Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin not only came up with an excellent emergency election plan for fall exercises of the franchise, but also in doing so he took the wind out of the sails for a group of malcontents.
Statute allows the secretary to make adjustment to election rules in an emergency situation, with a proposal authorized by appropriate legislative committees and the governor, followed by plan production approved by the same and each legislative chamber. This procedure brought forth a plan that made significant change to the just-concluded postponed spring local government elections.
Remarkably, despite the evidence at the time of its formation that the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic would be much reduced, the environment actually was approximately as bad at the times of the elections because of Louisiana’s unprecedented and unique bimodal distribution of infections, so the plan actually had some utility. Regrettably, that plan had problems, chiefly in that it allowed too much leeway for voting by mail – which creates opportunities for unscrupulous individuals to marking their ballots in voters’ stead (and then add insult to injury by signing as the witness) – and allowed registration without verification of identity.
Fortunately, these relaxations dropped off after the conclusion of the pair. Still, Ardoin thought some others needed for the fall duo, and Monday with the experience of the previous elections in hand presented these to the relevant committees.
Excellently, he didn’t ask for renewal of the two noxious provisions – look for Democrats to try to gerrymander the unverified registrants into voter rolls if given that leeway in an anticipated fall special legislative session – and what adjustments he proposes are marginal. 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.
This well-reasoned plan merits swift approval. And, as a bonus, the explication provided counters easily a bogus suit brought by groups who advocate policies to weaken ballot security that attempts to force upon Louisiana fall elections procedures of which Ardoin’s plan debunks in both terms of practicality and necessity.
After a fumble on the postponed elections, it’s refreshing to see Ardoin score on those for the fall.