Louisiana House Committee Rejects Bid to Let Anyone Registered Vote by Mail
BATON ROUGE – House Republicans on Tuesday killed an effort to allow any registered Louisiana voter to vote by mail.
In Louisiana, in-person voting is the default option. Current law allows a list of excuses to vote absentee by mail, such as physical disability or being 65 years old or older. Voters can claim they will be traveling and unable to vote in person, though no one follows up to make sure that was the case.
House Bill 419 would have expanded current law to allow any registered voter request an absentee ballot. Rep. Mandie Landry, the New Orleans Democrat who authored the bill, said voting by mail would be useful during infectious disease outbreaks when voters might be worried about their own health or spreading an illness to others.
Landry said voting by mail can be more secure than voting at a polling place, especially compared to Louisiana’s current voting machines that don’t leave a paper trail. She said 33 states and the District of Columbia already allow anyone to vote by mail.
“Louisiana is behind the times in many areas of the law, and this is one of them,” Landry said.
Tuesday’s discussion followed the usual partisan lines around voting, with Democrats expressing concerns about barriers to voting and Republicans saying they are worried about fraud. Several speakers pointed out that, despite concerns about rampant voter fraud through mailed ballots, there are relatively few cases of confirmed fraud.
But just because fraud isn’t getting caught doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, skeptics noted. Ballots can get stolen, lost in the mail or deliberately misplaced, and voters using mail-in ballots can be subject to intimidation, Republicans said.
Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who runs the state’s elections and does not support universal access to voting by mail, said his office currently doesn’t have the resources to implement the proposal, certainly not before the November federal election.
“We cannot change our system overnight,” he said.
The House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs voted 9-5 along party lines to involuntarily defer the bill, which typically kills a bill for the session.
Louisiana lawmakers last month approved an emergency plan for holding the state’s two summer elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan temporarily expands the reasons for voting by mail but is not as broad as voting-rights advocates would have preferred.
Four voters and two advocacy groups have sued Louisiana officials, alleging the emergency plan doesn’t do enough to protect the right to vote during the pandemic.
By David Jacobs of the Center Square