A federal appeals court is considering whether Louisiana must help its poor citizens on public assistance register to vote when they interact with state agencies online, over the telephone or through the mail. If a lower court ruling from early this year is overturned, an ever-growing share of people who register online won’t be granted the protections guaranteed by the National Voter Registration Act, plaintiffs’ attorneys argued Tuesday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Secretary of State Tom Schedler wants the court to overturn a ruling by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo that Louisiana violated federal election law by failing to make registration opportunities available through the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Children and Family Services. The suit was filed in 2011 by Luther Scott Jr. and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Attorneys for Schedler argued that voter registration assistance is required only for people who show up in person and that Schedler’s office is not responsible for the conduct of agencies not under its control.
But attorney Natasha M. Korgaonkar, who represents the NAACP and Scott, told the court that a narrow interpretation would have the “absurd” result of carving out most of the people the law was created to protect, noting that 88 percent of Medicaid interactions are done remotely.