La. election chief’s new plan would cut back COVID-related excuses for mail-in ballots

Local News

BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Coronavirus-related precautions left many Louisianians voting by mail this summer, avoiding crowds that may have otherwise spread the virus. But come fall, fewer people may have that option.

Under a plan he proposed Monday, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin would roll back the absentee voting expansions he enacted this past spring, in the pandemic’s infancy. Voters would only get mail-in ballots if they test positive for the COVID-19 during and after early voting — but before Election Day.

“A major expansion of our absentee ballot program in such a short time-frame would be nearly impossible, would exacerbate voter confusion, and would further strain an already stressed election system in terms of human, physical, and technical resources,” Ardoin, the state’s elections chief, wrote in his proposal to state lawmakers.

Absentee guidelines were far wider earlier this year, when state leaders agreed to include voters with COVID-19 symptoms, high health risks, as well as those in self-isolation or quarantine.

The election chief’s plan would also roll back early voting windows for the Nov. 3 and Dec. 5 races. Voters would have 10 days to cast early ballots, compared to 13 days this summer.

Ardoin, a Republican, will present his proposal Wednesday to a state House committee, then Thursday to a state Senate panel. Passage there would send the plan to the full chambers, followed by Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat with veto power.

Political pollster John Couvillon foresees a mixed response, with Republicans and Democrats long split over the United States Postal Service’s integrity.

“Given the stance that Republicans have taken thus far against any kind of expansion of mail-in voting, I can still imagine opposition on that side,” Baton Rouge-based political pollster John Couvillon said. “On the Democrats’ side, they’d be upset with the fact that you only have a very narrow expansion of mail-in voting.”

President Trump, a Republican, has claimed that fraud has plagued the mail-in voting process. His charge remains unsubstantiated, and he plans to cast his own mail-in ballot ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Ardoin’s proposal would not affect the mail-in voting guidelines in place before the pandemic. Voters 65 or older, as well as those living temporarily out of state, would still qualify.

In Louisiana, the deadline to request a mail-in ballot for the November election is Oct. 30.

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