La. lawmakers advance compromise on emergency election rulemaking process

Lawmakers move forward with compromise bill on emergency election plans

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) -A House committee advanced a compromise bill Tuesday, Oct. 20 that would re-work how lawmakers adopt rules for elections held during states of emergency.

Under current law, the legislature and governor must each approve the Secretary of State’s plan, which may include expanded mail-in voting or an extended early voting period to accommodate the emergency. But there are no opportunities to amend the idea without starting the entire process over, meaning a ‘no’ vote from any stakeholder kills the idea and delays its replacement.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin could not agree on a plan for the fall elections, essentially forcing a federal judge to write the new election rules in response to a lawsuit. Four weeks prior to the first day of early voting, poll workers were not sure what coronavirus accommodations would be in place for Louisiana voters.

“The process was kind of drawn out. Many folks felt like they didn’t have enough input, up-front,” Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, said. “We didn’t have the ability to make the plan better as it was going through the process. It was kind of an up or down, take it or leave it kind of vote.”

Under Hewitt’s plan, basically re-written in a compromise with Central republican Rep. Barry Ivey, lawmakers would adopt election rules in a manner more like how they pass bills. The Secretary of State would present the idea to a joint governmental affairs committee, which would advance the plan to the full body for a vote.

The governor could sign or veto the idea, and the legislature could override a potential veto.

But perhaps most important, lawmakers would give the Secretary of State more flexibility to change the proposal as it advances through the process. The bill creates a strict timeline for accomplishing the task.

“The committees will work, the legislature will do their job as the policymakers, the governor has veto power and we have the ability to override should we see the wisdom in doing that,” Hewitt said.

The bill now moves to the full House for debate. It would have to return to the Senate for approval of the committee’s re-write before the governor signs off.

Matt Houston will have more from the state capitol on 9News at 5 and 6.

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