BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The United States District Court Middle District of Louisiana has issued a ruling pertaining to upcoming elections in the state.
The ruling was signed Wednesday, Sept. 16 by federal Judge Shelly Dick.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Governor John Bel Edwards have been going back and forth for some time over how the state’s upcoming elections should be handled amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Both were named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by Louisiana voters and non-profits, which critiqued the state’s fall election plan for removing protective measures used over the summer, but Ardoin and Edwards took opposite stances on how to remedy the plan.
Notably, the court has ruled to increase the period of early voting for the Presidential General and Open Congressional Primary elections to 10 days. Early voting will be held Friday, Oct. 16 through Tuesday, Oct. 27 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 18 and Sunday, Oct. 25). Early voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day.
The motion initially filed requested that early voting be extended to 13 days, however, that motion was denied.
The court also denied a motion to increase the period of early voting for the Dec. 5 Open General/Congressional/Republic State Central Committee Election.
Furthermore, the court is making the COVID-19 Ballot Application that was used in July and August available. Absentee mail-in ballots will be supplied to voters who request them using the application. These will be available for both the Nov. 3 Presidential General and Open Congressional Primary elections, as well as the Dec. 5 Open General/Congressional/Republican State Central Committee Election.
Ardoin responded to the ruling Wednesday, saying, “We have received and are currently reviewing Judge Dick’s ruling. A decision as to how to proceed will be made after careful consideration of the facts is weighed with the fact that absentee voting currently underway for some voters, and early voting mere weeks away.”
Gov. Edwards also issued a statement in response to the ruling:
"Today’s ruling is a huge victory not only for the health and safety of the people of Louisiana, but also for their voting rights and our democracy. No one should have to risk their health or their life to vote, and I am relieved that the court agrees. Simply put: COVID-19 remains a serious problem in Louisiana and voting should not be a super spreader event.
It was obvious to anyone who pays attention to the COVID crisis that the failure to put forth an election plan to protect voters at risk for COVID-19 was inappropriate and unsafe. More fundamentally, as noted by Judge Shelly Dick, ‘the state’s failure to provide accommodation for pandemic-affected voters is likely unconstitutional because it imposes an undue burden on Plaintiffs’ right to vote.' The failure to implement the very same plan that was submitted by the Secretary of State for the July and August elections would have caused voters to either forgo voting or disregard medical guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. It further would have required people who are at high risk for serious COVID complications and even for those who are exposed and should be in quarantine to risk exposing others by voting in person. Thankfully, Judge Dick agreed that this is unacceptable.
The Secretary of State should accept the Court’s ruling and immediately implement the election plan for the upcoming election in November, as ordered. It is unfortunate that thousands of taxpayer dollars were wasted by the Attorney General defending this woefully inadequate emergency election plan. The taxpayers and voters in Louisiana deserve better. Between COVID-19 and Hurricane Laura, our state has much work to do before early voting begins. I pledge to support this effort to ensure that all Louisianans can safely vote, in person or by mail if they qualify."
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