Louisiana’s Covid Test Proposal Would Exclude ‘Thousands’ From Postal Voting | American News

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In an unprecedented move, Louisiana’s top election official wants to demand a positive Covid-19 test if a voter wants to vote absent due to concerns about the virus. It comes amid a lack of consistent access to testing across the state.Louisiana is one of seven states that will still need an excuse to vote by mail this year, only allowing absentee voting if a voter is 65 years of age or older or meets certain other conditions such as l temporary absence from his county or hospitalization.

For its July and August election, Louisiana relaxed those restrictions for voters at risk of developing complications from Covid-19 or who had potential exposure to the virus. But Under Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s proposal for the state’s November and December elections released Monday, these accommodations will not apply. Instead, a voter should test positive for Covid-19 between the end of early voting and polling day, currently a one-week period to use the excuse of hospitalization to request a postal vote.

The proposal from Ardoin, a Republican, comes as Louisiana has experienced delays in testing, which means a voter could get tested and not have their results in time to request a postal vote. Louisiana has experienced 138,485 cases of Covid-19 and 4,526 deaths to date. As of April, African Americans accounted for 70% of Covid-19 deaths in the state.

The proposal would exclude “thousands” of eligible Louisiana voters from postal voting rights and ignore the limited availability of testing, said Zachery Morris, attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which is suing the state for its preparations in November. .

“Restricting eligibility for emergency postal voting exclusively to people who test positive for Covid-19 during and after the early voting period but before election day is an inexplicably narrow classification,” he said. -he declares.

Ardoin’s plan calls for 10 days of early voting and would add an additional hour and a half for polling stations to be open each day, less than the 13 days of early voting offered by the state this summer, according to the Associated Press .

Louisiana typically doesn’t see large numbers of voters voting by mail, and Ardoin wrote in the proposal that there simply wasn’t time to expand the program until November and would confuse voters. The state is currently facing a federal lawsuit from voting rights groups who said earlier this month it was not doing enough to protect voters for the November election.

“As most other states expand safe voting options for the November election, Louisiana is backing down,” said Ashley Shelton, executive director of Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, a civic action group that is the one of the plaintiffs in the case.

This approach is stricter than some other states when it comes to relaxing voting restrictions. Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky, for example, require voters to produce an acceptable excuse to request to vote by mail, but all three states have said concerns about Covid-19 would be an acceptable excuse for the ‘autumn. But in its recommendation, Ardoin noted that very few voters were using Covid-19 as an excuse to vote by mail in this year’s election. In the state’s July election, only 2,810 of 164,296 voters who requested a postal vote cited Covid-19 as an excuse. More than 90% of voters who used the postal ballots in July, Ardoin noted, were aged 65 or older.

Ardoin’s proposal has yet to be approved by the Louisiana legislature, where Republicans control both houses, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is a Democrat.

“The reality is that the legislature is predominantly Republican and I had to come up with a plan that could be pragmatically adopted and at the same time meet the needs that I saw,” Ardoin told the USA Today Network. “A good number of Republicans who voted for the latest plan said they couldn’t do it anymore because circumstances had changed.”

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