BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal lawsuit has been filed against Louisiana’s emergency election plan aimed at addressing voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Filed on behalf of the NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and four individual voters, the lawsuit said the state’s plan for access to mail-in ballots is “unduly restrictive.” The plaintiffs want to eliminate requirements that voters present an excuse to get an absentee ballot, The Advocate reported.
“Risking your health, and the health of your family, should not be a requirement to partake in the electoral process,” Catherine Meza, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “We are hoping this lawsuit not only increases access to absentee voting but also makes in-person voting safer, so that Louisianans can exercise their constitutional right without putting their lives at risk.”
The lawsuit names the governor, secretary of state and the registrars of voters for East Baton Rouge and Orleans parishes.
A similar lawsuit is pending in Texas over that state’s refusal to expand mail-in ballots.
Under Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s initial plan for the delayed July and August elections, voters would have been able to use several reasons to avoid voting in person, including fear of catching the virus. But Republican lawmakers, with help from Attorney General Jeff Landry, fought such an expansion, citing possible fraud. Voting experts say the overall risk of fraud, either by mail-in voting or in-person voting, is extremely low across the country.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards supported Ardoin’s plan.
Under the revisions, the only reasons someone could get a mail-in ballot are those at higher risk because of serious medical conditions, those subject to a “medically necessary quarantine or isolation order,” those advised by a health provider to self-quarantine, those experiencing coronavirus symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, or those caring for someone who is subject to a quarantine order.
According to the suit, one of the plaintiffs, Jasmine Pogue, has asthma and a history of upper respiratory infections, but she would not qualify for an absentee ballot under the state’s plan.
“Ms. Pogue’s only option to vote requires risking virus exposure — and perhaps her life — at an in-person voting site,” the suit states.
The lawsuit argues requiring any excuse to get an absentee ballot is unconstitutional and violates the Voting Rights Act.
A request for comment Thursday from Ardoin’s office was not immediately answered.