BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana lawmakers Wednesday punted on proposals to change how the state votes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The state Senate’s governmental affairs panel voted 5-to-1 to delay action on Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s recommendations to expand absentee voting access. His proposal would offer mail-in ballots to registered voters 60 or older, those experiencing coronavirus symptoms or told to self-isolate or those caring for children.
Ardoin, Louisiana’s chief elections officer, suggested his proposals would ease worries that crowded polling sites would further the spread of the virus.
“I’m just trying to figure out a way to balance the concerns of the citizens and the phone calls we get from average citizens that are worried about contracting this horrible virus,” Ardoin said.
The Republican-heavy panel, as well as a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Louisiana, suggested such widened measures would expose Louisiana to voter fraud.
“There is not an election cycle that goes through that we don’t wake up to the news that votes are found in someone’s garage or somebody’s trunk,” Sen. Barry Milligan (R-Shreveport).
President Donald Trump has also claimed that widespread mail-in voting leads to voter fraud. Numerous recent studies have shown that while remote ballots pose a slightly higher fraud risk, the threat remains low.
Ardoin said he is willing to amend his proposal and present it to legislators again, though he argues that the latest the state can sign off on any “emergency” electoral changes for the July and August elections is April 24.
Ardoin has not issued recommendations for how the state should operate elections in November, when President Trump and U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy go up for reelection.
Any changes the secretary of state proposes require support from both the Louisiana House and Senate.