Legislators Approve Plan to Expand Absentee Voting

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Though Grateful for the Step Forward, Advocates Continue to Push for More Comprehensive, Less Restrictive Plan

With summer elections coming up amid concerns related to the spread of the deadly  coronavirus, the Louisiana Legislature recently expanded absentee ballot voting. The emergency elections plan submitted by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin passed Monday, April 27 with a 31-8 Senate vote and 62-39 vote in the House.

According to the new Emergency Voting Plan — in addition to already established absentee ballot qualifications, voters can now request an absentee ballot if they are:

  • Are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of certain medical conditions
  • Are subject to a quarantine or isolation order
  • Are advised by a health provider to self-quarantine
  • Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical confirmation
  • Are caring for someone who is quarantined or isolated because of the disease

For now, the plan applies to the July 11 presidential primary and the August 15 municipal election. In addition to increasing the number of people able to vote by absentee ballot, the plan also allows the secretary of state to change precinct locations, relocate polling places, expand in-person early voting from seven days to 13 days.  

While voting rights advocates applaud the new elections plan, many also say it still does not go far enough. To be sure, the emergency plan lawmakers approved is not nearly as robust as one that failed to make it out of the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee early this month. That planned was far more comprehensive and would have widely expanded absentee voting eligibility with few restrictions.

“This is great news and an amazing step in the right direction to ensuring everyone can safely cast their vote — but in a time like this, we should be expanding absentee voting to everyone,” wrote Action New Orleans in a statement released after the plan’s passage.No one should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting their health, and we hope that anyone — doctors, nurses, first responders, everyone — may have access to vote by mail and further ensure their health and safety.”

The New Orleans-based political action committee has launched an online petition to urge legislators to pass the more robust plan as outlined in a bill proposed by state Rep. Many Landry.