BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Amid concerns over COVID-19 spreading at polling places, absentee voting advocates want Louisiana’s elections chief to expand mail-in access for the November and December elections.
More than 25 advocacy organizations across the state sent a letter Tuesday to Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. It asks him to let all voters file by mail for November and December — and to give them more time to request and mail back those ballots.
“Action is necessary now to ensure the safety of voters and elections workers through these elections,” the letter reads.
Louisiana is no stranger to emergency election plans this year. In April, Ardoin and state lawmakers agreed to limit crowds and loosen absentee voting guidelines for summer ballots. That plan expires in mid-August.
With the state facing more known COVID-19 cases per capita, the letter’s signers fear voters will feel caught between their health and their voice this fall.
“The idea that someone couldn’t actually exercise their right to vote because of fear of this virus or fear of dying as a result of trying to vote,” Power Coalition for Equity and Justice executive director Ashley Shelton said Wednesday. “That’s terrible and unbelievably avoidable.”
Ardoin spokesman Tyler Brey suggested state election officials will spend the coming months weighing how to handle the pandemic.
“Our office continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation across the state and explore options for the election in November,” he wrote in a statement.
Brey did not elaborate on the options the state is considering, but voiced hesitance toward expanding mail-in ballot access.
“The nationwide failure of the Postal Service to handle even a modest increase of absentee mail ballots is a major cause for concern leading into November,” he said. “An increased reliance on the USPS is inviting the potential for the widespread disenfranchisement of our state’s voters.”