(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Legislature has approved an emergency plan for this spring’s elections that expands mail-in voting in hopes of limiting the spread of COVID-19.
The Republican-majority Legislature joined Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards in their support for the plan Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin presented earlier this month.
“I am pleased that this emergency plan passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support at every step of this process,” Ardoin said. “This plan is a pragmatic response to the recent unprecedented surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Louisiana residents who are at least 65 years old, members of the military, overseas voters, people who are hospitalized and people who say they won’t be in their parish on Election Day generally are allowed to vote by mail.
The emergency rules allow people to use a mail-in ballot if they have a medical condition that puts them at a higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19, are subject to an isolation order or are caring for someone who is, are advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a diagnosis.
The plan is much the same as one lawmakers approved for last summer’s elections, except it doesn’t expand the number of days when in-person early voting is available. Republicans refused to expand mail-in voting for the fall elections, citing concerns about fraud and whether the U.S. Postal Service could handle the volume, only to have a judge order state officials to offer the broader list of options.
As it turned out, expanding mail-in voting did not lead to widespread fraud and the vast majority of voters who requested absentee ballots did so under the standard reasons and not the temporary COVID-19-specific reasons, officials said.
The emergency rules apply to elections scheduled for March 20 and April 24, which include races for two open seats in Congress, two appeals court judgeships, an open spot on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, an open seat in the state House of Representatives, and a city council spot in DeRidder.