Viewpoint: Mail-in ballots are essential for the safety of Louisiana voters

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Voters study the ballot choices outside the fire station polling place on Magazine Street in the Irish Channel. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Voters study the ballot choices outside the fire station polling place on Magazine Street in the Irish Channel in 2016. A bill by a three Democratic lawmakers from New Orleans would allow any registered voter to mail in their ballot. (Robert Morris, Uptown Messenger file photo)

Who wants to potentially put themselves or their family members at risk by voting at a poll on upcoming election days?

With Louisiana’s presidential primary and other ballot measures now scheduled for July 11, state officials are squabbling over how to hold safe elections during the pandemic and beyond. Newly minted state Rep. Mandie Landry, District 91, pre-filed House Bill 419, to allow all registered voters to utilize voting by mail in every election. Co-authored by Reps. Aimee Freeman, District 98, and Matt Willard, District 97, this legislation would impact the November elections and beyond.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin have been working in a bi-partisan fashion to craft an emergency vote-by-mail system for this summer’s elections. Members of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted yesterday to support the emergency proposal. Their counterparts in the Senate rejected the proposal Wednesday (April 15), forcing Ardoin to quickly craft a compromise before his deadline to order the necessary supplies for a mail-in ballot election.

The sticking point in emergency proposal Ardoin presented seems to be that some Republican legislators would prefer to limit what groups of individuals have access to mail-in ballots. Currently in Louisiana only seniors, members of the military overseas and individuals who are hospitalized can request an absentee ballot.

“Voters should not have to choose between exercising their constitutional rights and protecting their health and safety,” Rep. Landry said. “I was proud to work with the Power Coalition on expanded vote by mail before the pandemic. Given the emergence we now face as a nation, passing a no-excuse vote by mail in Louisiana is more important than ever. Over half the states in this country allow it, and it’s time that Louisiana joined them.”

“I am disappointed that the Senate House and Governmental Affairs Committee deferred action on Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s emergency declaration yesterday, and I am thanking that the House Committee on Governmental Affairs agreed that Louisiana is having an emergency,” said Rep. Freeman.

President Trump has spoken out against all-mail voting because “you will never have a Republican elected in this country again.” Other Republicans cite high incidences of voter fraud in mail ballot elections. Experts refute both claims, according to The New York Times.

New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu recently endorsed the concept of all-mail voting due to potential health risks of voting in person this fall. Officials in Iowa are also considering making the change. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington already conduct elections almost entirely by mail. In the District of Columbia and 28 other states registered voters are allowed to request mail-in ballots without providing a reason.

Setting up an expanded vote-by-mail system in Louisiana won’t necessarily be easy. But it is necessary in these troubled times. Too bad it’s taking a pandemic to bring Louisiana in line with the majority of state voting practices.

QUALIFYING STILL OPEN FOR NATIONAL CONVENTION DELEGATES

The Louisiana Democratic Party is reminding registered voters that it is not too late to qualify to be a delegate to the National Democratic Convention, which is still scheduled to be held Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee. Voters must submit their qualifying forms by April 20. The Republican National Convention will take place in Charlotte, N.C.,  Aug. 24-27. The Republican delegate selection process is also ongoing.

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. She is a member of the Democratic Parish Executive Committee. Columbus can be reached at swampednola@gmail.com.

4 thoughts on “Viewpoint: Mail-in ballots are essential for the safety of Louisiana voters

  1. It not only the voters but even more the poll workers that are in danger from dealing with all the voters, their sign-ins and checking the voter’s ID.
    Perhaps those who wish to go and vote should volunteer to be poll workers?

  2. ABSOLUTLEY NO mail in votes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Vote in person, with a valid Louisiana drivers license, or you don’t get to vote !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    There is already so much dishonest/illegal/corruption that takes place with voting in person!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ONLY VOTING IN PERSON

    • Dear K Roy…..
      If my grandchildren, all old enough to vote, have to roll me down in my
      wheel chair……I will post your stupid note on the back of it! And some one will learn your
      last name!!!!!
      Life long voter……

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