No elections emergency ever existed in Louisiana, nor will one exist this fall, that justifies weakened election rules.
When the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic descended upon Louisiana this spring, a combination of panic and opportunism gripped elected officials in charge of elections. Those who panicked foresaw voting locations for April and May elections becoming a miasma of the virus, inevitably pouncing on the vulnerable who showed up to exercise the franchise. The opportunists saw the environment as a doorway to relax procedures, whether it encouraged illegal voting, that could bring partisan advantage favoring their interests.
Thus, without an entirely convincing rationale, these elections were postponed first for about two months, then another. In the meantime, Republican Sec. of State Kyle Ardoin, backed by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, presented a deeply flawed plan to alter procedures for the pair of low-stimulus affairs. When the appropriate legislative panels rejected those temporary rules, he came back with a less-flawed plan that unwisely won acceptance. The rescheduled to Jul. 11 elections operated under these, as will the rescheduled to Aug. 15 set.
The alterations still leave ample room to vote by mail for those willing to stretch the truth, and to allow for fake registrants. The temporary rules allowed for registration without personal appearance for that or at the polls, making it easy to commit fraud. Fortunately, after the next election these registrants must appear in person to vote, although you can bet Edwards and legislative Democrats will want to gerrymander them in without them ever making an appearance.
Such tolerance of potential misdeeds was justified by the supposed extraordinary challenges presented by the virus to ensure people could cast legitimate ballots. Except the fear that widespread in-person voting could cause a spike in virus transmission is illusory.
That was the conclusion drawn by a study of April voting in Wisconsin, principally in Milwaukee. The Centers for Disease Control found negligible evidence that conducting an election as usual increased spread of the diseases.
Keep in mind that Milwaukee ended up as the worst-case scenario. So many poll workers opted out there that the high-stimulus election ended up occurring in just five locations. Early voting rules weren’t changed, which led to cramming tens of thousands of people in each place on election day. Yet data show really no increased incidence during the temporal window following the election.
In fact, the panic to vote early prompted by the virus scare caused a degradation of democracy, Like Louisiana, Wisconsin had no great infrastructure to handle a sudden increase in early ballots, and some ended up not getting counted as a result.
Of course, at the time Wisconsin’s daily infection numbers, from a population a bit larger than Louisiana’s, was about an eighth of what the Bayou State currently experiences. Yet by November it seems ludicrous to think that Louisiana’s rate won’t have fallen to a fraction of its amount at present.
If there ever was an elections emergency from April until now in Louisiana, there surely won’t be one in November or December. The physical distancing measures, cleaning protocols, and protective equipment used at polling places will serve more than adequately to quash all but the most trivial, if even that, transmission that could occur at the polls later this autumn.
There’s no reason why Louisiana fall elections have to operate under rules any different from those presently in the election code. Any recommendation by Edwards, Ardoin, or whoever else contrary to that merits rejection.