Louisiana legislators are expected to consider a plan from Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin that may ask some voters who request an absentee ballot for the November election prove that they have tested positive for COVID-19.
Under Ardoin’s plan, voters who have tested positive can request an absentee ballot by reason of hospitalization. Those voters must provide a copy of their state driver’s license or photo identification to the registrar. COVID-19 positive voters have until 8 p.m. on election day to return their ballots. Currently, Louisiana voters over the age of 65, members deployed out of state by military service or those hospitalized are already eligible to receive absentee ballots. Under Ardoin’s plan, individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 during the early voting time frame but before election day would be allowed to use absentee ballots.
« A major expansion of our absentee ballot program in such a short time-frame would be nearly impossible, would exacerbate voter confusion, and would further strain an already stressed election system in terms of human, physical, and technical resources, » Ardoin wrote in the plan, which was released on Monday.
Under Ardoin’s previous plan, voters who were under self-quarantine or an isolation order, exhibited COVID-19 symptoms or had underlying conditions were eligible to receive absentee ballots.
Ardoin also cited issues with the United States Postal Service (USPS) as a reason for reducing the number of potential absentee ballots. According to Ardoin, seven trays of absentee ballot requests within Lousiana during the July election were held back due to insufficient postage in Orleans Parish. « The trays accounted for nearly 5,000 absentee ballot requests, some of them postmarked two weeks before they were delivered, » Ardoin wrote.
« Voters voting in person, with poll workers available to answer questions—and without entrusting a third party to see that the ballot is properly delivered—is the safest and most efficient way to ensure the ballots are counted, » Ardoin added.
Absentee voting is delineated from universal mail-in voting, although neither requires an individual to be present at the polls to cast ballots. Mail-in voting means all registered voters in a state are delivered a ballot through the mail. Absentee ballots are requested by voters from their local election boards.
President Donald Trump has been a staunch critic of mail-in voting, stating a belief that widespread usage of the mail-in system would lead to voter fraud.
« Mail ballots, they cheat, » Trump told reporters in August. « Mail ballots are very dangerous for this country because of cheaters. They go collect them. They are fraudulent in many cases. »
Trump has also said the USPS is incapable of handling a large number of ballots. Democrats included a provision for funding the USPS in their latest coronavirus stimulus package proposal. Trump said Thursday during an interview with Fox News that he opposed the funding because it would enable mail-in voting to occur.
U.S. Postmaster Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee, announced plans in August to restructure the USPS in an effort to increase efficiency. Democratic lawmakers referred to DeJoy’s plans as creating « slower and less reliable » delivery services which could impact the receipt of mail-in ballots.
House Democrats have called for an emergency hearing concerning the USPS which is expected to « examine the sweeping operational and organizational changes at the Postal Service that experts warn could degrade delivery standards, slow the mail and potentially impair the rights of eligible Americans to cast their votes in the upcoming November elections, » according to an August statement.
DeJoy and USPS Board of Governors Chairman Robert Duncan were asked by lawmakers to testify at the hearing.
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