Lawmakers to hear new proposal for mail-in ballots for Louisiana elections


FILE – In this July 20, 2018, file photo, then-interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, R-Baton Rouge, talks to reporters about his last-minute decision to run in the special election for secretary of state, in Baton Rouge, La. Ardoin said Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the state is restarting its stalled effort to replace its voting machines. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Louisiana’s Secretary of State will go before House and Senate committees Wednesday morning with a new proposed emergency election plan.

The plan aims to expand early voting and mail-in balloting options for Louisiana’s presidential primary for people worried about the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in one of the nation’s larger outbreaks.

Last week, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected Ardoin’s initial plan that would have offered mail-in ballots to registered voters 60 or older, those experiencing coronavirus symptoms or told to self-isolate or those caring for children.

It was rejected by Republican state senators who cited concerns that expanding absentee balloting opens up more risk of fraud in the election.

The updated plan includes a proposal to lengthen early voting by about a week and increase mail-in voting options. But his new mail-in ballot plan has a more limited list of those who would be eligible to request the absentee-by-mail ballots.

Ardoin released details of his new plan before Wednesday’s hearings and the reasons residents would qualify for an absentee ballot include those that:

  • Are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to serious underlying medical conditions as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (including chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, severe obesity (BMI of 40 or higher), chronic kidney disease and undergoing dialysis, liver disease, pregnancy, or immunocompromised due to cancer treatment, smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications)
  • Subject to a medically necessary quarantine or isolation order as a result of COVID-19
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns
  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis
  • Caring for an identified individual who is subject to a medically necessary quarantine or isolation order as a result of COVID-19 or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.

The new plan also extends the number of early voting days from seven to thirteen for the July 11, and August 15 elections.

Polling locations that are usually associated with nursing homes would also change to a new location.

“That draft plan was calibrated to make sure it would enjoy the support of a majority of folks on the House and Senate governmental affairs committees,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said during his daily coronavirus news conference Tuesday. “I think it’s a reasonable plan under the circumstances.”

Republican Sen. Sharon Hewitt, the chair of the Senate committee that rejected Ardoin’s prior version, said on Twitter that the latest version was “greatly improved” and indicated she expected approval.

Hearings from the Governmental Affairs Committee in both the House and Senate are set for Wednesday morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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