Federal judge: Louisiana should expand mail voting access for Nov. 3 election

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A federal judge Wednesday ruled that Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s Nov. 3 election plan would not allow ample access to absentee voting.

In a 44-page decision, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick sided with plaintiffs who suggested the state should let more people vote by mail, in a push to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ testimony clearly establishes that the state’s maintenance of limited absentee by mail voting imposes a burden on their right to vote,” Dick wrote. “The burden on the right to vote is further supported by significant record evidence.”

Plaintiffs, as well as Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, have recommended extending mail-in ballots to those with COVID-19 symptoms, caregivers and those with higher health risks.

“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,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, who vetoed Ardoin’s plan weeks ago, said in a statement Wednesday. “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,” Edwards added.

Defendants in the state’s election office claim that widespread absentee voting would delay the vote-counting process.

Ardoin’s plan would only expand mail-in voting access to voters who test positive for COVID-19 between early voting and Election Day. Voters eligible to vote absentee before the coronavirus pandemic would still be eligible.

Ardoin, a Republican who has questioned whether the state’s vote-counters could handle an influx of mail-in ballots, is considering whether to appeal Dick’s ruling through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans.

“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,” the secretary wrote in a statement Wednesday.

Louisiana is one of six states that require a state-approved excuse to acquire a mail-in ballot.

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