Voting rights advocates fight to dismiss their own lawsuit

Louisiana

In this Sept. 8, 2020 photo, voting booths are kept socially distant at the Chesterfield, N.H. polling site. A majority of President Donald Trump’s supporters plan to cast their ballot on Election Day, while about half of Joe Biden’s backers plan to vote by mail. That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that finds 54% of voters say they will vote before polls open on Nov. 3. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Having gotten what they wanted last fall — expanded early voting and mail balloting in the last presidential election — voting rights advocates in Louisiana are trying to dismiss the lawsuit they filed seeking safe voting opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic.

But, with their eyes on future elections, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, and Attorney General Jeff Landry, both Republicans, are pressing on with an appeal. They want a ruling that U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s expansion of voting opportunities last fall was an overreach in which the judge took actions reserved for lawmakers.

The plaintiffs, including the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, say the issue is moot. Their lawsuit dealt only with the November and December Louisiana elections, and they have a right to have it dismissed, they argued Tuesday in a court filing.

The two Republican leaders say the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should rule anyway. Otherwise, they say in court briefs, “this case—if not addressed by this Court—could become a roadmap for similarly timed future actions.”

The voting rights advocates filed a dismissal motion in Dick’s court Tuesday. They also have one pending at the 5th Circuit. The 5th Circuit hasn’t ruled on the motion. It has issued an order scheduling arguments on the appeal for June 7.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, is not opposing the dismissal effort.

Debates on how and whether to expand early voting and mail voting in Louisiana divided state officials for much of 2020 as the state contended with surges in the virus that causes COVID-19. Some expansions were eventually approved for summer elections.

Dick’s Sept. 16 ruling said the state’s failure to approve similar expansions for the fall elections was “likely unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on Plaintiffs’ right to vote.”

She said the state had to allow mail-in voting for people with conditions that make people more vulnerable to COVID-19, their caretakers, and three other groups. She also ordered expansion of early voting from seven days to 10 for the Nov. 3 presidential election but not for a Dec. 5 election.

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