Edwards declares state of emergency for November elections; Ardoin responds
On Tuesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order declaring that an emergency exists for Louisiana’s November election because of COVID-19, while also acknowledging that the current emergency election plan from Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin does not go far enough to protect public health.
The emergency declaration, which must be requested by the Secretary of State and granted by the Governor, allows the state to move forward with emergency plans to support the election and take into account health and safety issues that might affect voting.
Without the Governor’s approval, the Secretary of State’s plan cannot be implemented, even with Legislative approval.
The Governor does not support the Secretary of State’s plan because it does not follow guidance from public health officials and does not provide for absentee mail-in voting options for people who are at high risk for suffering serious issues relating to COVID-19, those who have been exposed and are in quarantine and those who are caregivers for immunocompromised individuals.
“I want to be crystal clear: you should not mistake me declaring an emergency for this election as approving of the Secretary of State’s election plan, because I do not,” said Edwards.
“I believe that we need emergency procedures in place for this election. I do not believe the Secretary of State’s current plan goes far enough, because it does not take into account the seriousness of this global pandemic and the health and safety of the voters. Simply put: voting should not be a super spreader event.
“The current plan includes no exemptions for people who are at high risk for getting ill from COVID or those who live with and care for these people. And, most seriously of all, it doesn’t offer an option for someone who has known exposure to COVID-19 and is in quarantine to vote by mail. So, people who have been advised by doctors not to leave their homes to avoid potentially exposing others would instead either have to not vote in the election or would have to go against the advice of public health experts and leave their homes.
“This puts all of us at risk. From our poll workers to our voters, people must have the confidence that they can safely vote. We need to find a solution that works for the public health of our people and also for the health of our democracy. We had an election plan for the past two smaller elections that worked by expanding early voting but also allowing for an expansion of absentee mail in voting. That we wouldn’t continue this for November’s election – the highest profile one of the year – makes absolutely zero sense to me.”
Ardoin issued his own statement Tuesday evening, indicating that he did not intend to change his plan.
“I will not be altering the plan I submitted,” stated Ardoin. “The plan the governor prefers was developed under a stay-at-home-order; our state is currently in phase two. I negotiated the best possible plan that could pass the legislative committees, and if this issue must be resolved in the courts, I hope any ruling would include the critical mechanisms our office needs to administer the election.”