Gov. John Bel Edwards called a federal judge’s ruling that Louisiana should allow more access to absentee mail ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential elections amid the coronavirus pandemic “a huge victory.”
“No one should have to risk their health or their life to vote, and I am relieved that the court agrees,” Edwards said in a statement. “Simply put: COVID-19 remains a serious problem in Louisiana and voting should not be a super spreader event.”
In a 44-page decision released Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Shelly D. Dick supported Edwards’ request to implement a “safer emergency election plan” for Louisiana — including more options to vote by mail — in line with how the state conducted elections this past summer.
In the ruling, Dick described Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s efforts to change the emergency election plan for the July and August elections as “bumbling attempts to fix what was not broken.”
The election is in 48 days.
“The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ testimony clearly establishes that the state’s maintenance of limited absentee by mail voting imposes a burden on their right to vote,” Dick wrote. “The burden on the right to vote is further supported by significant record evidence.”
Edwards called the ruling a victory “not only for the health and safety of the people of Louisiana, but also for their voting rights and our democracy,” describing the failure to put forth an election plan to protect voters at risk for COVID-19 as “inappropriate and unsafe.”
The Center for Disease Control and the Louisiana Department of Health both encourage those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to remain home as much as possible unless they must leave for an essential activity, such as getting food or medical care.
People with higher risk include those with compromised immune systems, those 65 and older, and those with conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart or kidney disease, and obesity.
“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,’” Edwards said.
“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.”
To read the entire ruling, click here.