BATON ROUGE – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s emergency plan for Louisiana’s fall election does not allow for adequate voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision from Judge Shelly Dick said that the current plan offered limited absentee by mail voting and “imposes a burden on their right to vote.”
Some voters, joined by rights groups, asked the federal court to halt the plan, fearing that crowds standing in line to vote could lead to another surge in coronavirus cases. They also argued that fear of the virus could prevent others from voting at all.
Ardoin and Attorney General Jeff Landry had defended the plan in weeks past as Governor John Bel Edwards threatened to strike it down if lawmakers sent it to his desk.
Ardoin released a brief statement Wednesday afternoon saying his office is reviewing the ruling.
“We have received and are currently reviewing Judge Dick’s ruling. A decision as to how to proceed will be made after careful consideration of the facts is weighed with the fact that absentee voting currently underway for some voters, and early voting mere weeks away.”
Governor John Bel Edwards also released a statement on the ruling, which supported his request to implement a safer emergency election plan for Louisiana.
“Today’s ruling is a huge victory not only for the health and safety of the people of Louisiana, but also for their voting rights and our democracy. No one should have to risk their health or their life to vote, and I am relieved that the court agrees. Simply put: COVID-19 remains a serious problem in Louisiana and voting should not be a super spreader event.
It was obvious to anyone who pays attention to the COVID crisis that the failure to put forth an election plan to protect voters at risk for COVID-19 was inappropriate and unsafe. More fundamentally, as noted by Judge Shelly Dick, ‘the state’s failure to provide accommodation for pandemic-affected voters is likely unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on Plaintiffs’ right to vote.’ The failure to implement the very same plan that was submitted by the Secretary of State for the July and August elections would have caused voters to either forgo voting or disregard medical guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. It further would have required people who are at high risk for serious COVID complications and even for those who are exposed and should be in quarantine to risk exposing others by voting in person. Thankfully, Judge Dick agreed that this is unacceptable.
The Secretary of State should accept the Court’s ruling and immediately implement the election plan for the upcoming election in November, as ordered. It is unfortunate that thousands of taxpayer dollars were wasted by the Attorney General defending this woefully inadequate emergency election plan. The taxpayers and voters in Louisiana deserve better. Between COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura, our state has much work to do before early voting begins. I pledge to support this effort to ensure that all Louisianans can safely vote, in person or by mail if they qualify.”
The election is scheduled for Nov. 3.