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LWV of Louisiana Challenges State’s Election Plan to Better Serve Voters during COVID-19

Read a copy of the complaint here.

BATON ROUGE—Yesterday, the League of Women Voters of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s emergency election plan, which does not provide voters adequate protection during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among the problems with the state’s plan are limited-excuse absentee voting, a witness signature requirement for absentee ballots, and in-person voting requirements for first-time voters. 

“The League of Women Voters supported a comprehensive election plan that included measures to adequately address the ongoing pandemic crisis, but instead the state chose this disastrous plan that puts voters’ health at risk,” said Hilda Thomas, President of the League of Women Voters of Louisiana. “The state is abandoning its responsibility to protect voters’ health and constitutional rights with this election plan. Black voters, elderly voters, and voters with pre-existing health conditions, who are already disproportionately affected by this virus, are further harmed by these onerous absentee ballot requirements and lack of safe in-person voting.” 

The state’s emergency election plan only applies to the July and August elections, but all current evidence shows that the COVID-19 pandemic will persist through or resurge in the fall. The plan fails to provide pandemic mitigation procedures for the November general election. 

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the country have been grappling with how to balance health and safety with constitutional rights, and unfortunately Louisiana is moving in the wrong direction,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Election plans like this only serve to disenfranchise the most vulnerable communities across the country, and states must not allow this virus to be used as an excuse to violate voters’ constitutional rights.” 

The League of Women Voters is joined in this case by three individual Louisiana voters—Telisa Clark, Lakeshia Barnett, and Martha Christian Green—and represented by Southern Poverty Law Center, Fair Elections Center, and Arnold & Porter.

“Instead of protecting voters’ health by making absentee ballots available to all voters who need them during the COVID-19 pandemic, Louisiana election officials have left in place barriers that many voters should not have to overcome to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Caren Short, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Many states across the country have extensive, well-functioning vote-by-mail systems that don’t make potentially dangerous demands on voters. COVID-19 spurred additional common-sense modifications that benefit public health in states of all political alignments. The lawsuit filed today requests that a federal court step in to ensure that happens in Louisiana.”  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed glaring inequalities in Louisiana, including in the state's election laws,” said Cecilia Aguilera, counsel for Fair Elections Center. “This case seeks to help close gaps in ballot access and ensure that all Louisiana voters can safely vote in 2020.” 

The case is likely to be heard in the next few weeks. Louisiana’s presidential primary was postponed from June 20 to July 11. The state’s municipal elections were postponed from July 25 to August 15. 

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Contact: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]