Louisiana

Articles about voting issues in Louisiana.

Louisiana: Lawsuits challenging Louisiana virus election plan dismissed | Melinda Deslatte/The Advocate

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit challenging Louisiana’s emergency plan for its July presidential primary and August municipal elections, a plan written in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The emergency plan — crafted by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and approved by state lawmakers in April — increased early voting by six days and expanded mail-in balloting options for some people at higher risk to the virus. Two separate lawsuits filed in Baton Rouge federal court argued the plan didn’t go far enough to protect people from the virus. U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, of Baton Rouge, disagreed in a decision issued Monday that dismissed the consolidated lawsuits and upheld the plan. “The court rejects plaintiffs’ contention that they are being ‘forced to choose’ between their health and voting,” Dick wrote. The 13-day early voting period for the July 11 presidential primary is ongoing, running through July 4. Applications for mail-in ballots are due by July 7.

Full Article: Lawsuits challenging Louisiana virus election plan dismissed | Elections | theadvocate.com.

Louisiana: Secretary of State rejects federal money with strings attached for fall elections | Greg LaRose/WDSU

Louisiana’s top elections official says he won’t accept federal money to expand voter access this fall if it comes with strings attached. His declaration today comes as civil rights advocates have said Louisiana is among the states with unreasonable barriers to voting. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin was among the witnesses who spoke to members of a congressional subcommittee about how states will handle elections amid the coronavirus pandemic. Congress is considering whether to send COVID-19 stimulus funds to states so they can offer options like mail-in voting in order to keep citizens safe. President Donald Trump and conservatives have argued the expansion of mail-in voting would exacerbate election fraud, although without examples of where it has occurred widespread. “Receiving one-time money during an unprecedented crisis at the expense of radically changing our election system is a tradeoff we’re not willing to make,” Ardoin told members of a U.S. House subcommittee on elections.

Full Article: Ardoin rejects federal money with strings attached for fall elections.

Louisiana: Group seeks mail-in voting for all Louisiana voters during pandemic | Ashley White/Lafayette Daily Advertiser

A new lawsuit seeks to expand Louisiana voters’ ability to cast ballots by mail for the 2020 elections. The League of Women Voters of Louisiana filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, claiming the state’s emergency election plan fails to provide voters adequate protection during the conronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. John Bel Edwards, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Charlene Menard and Terrebonne Parish Registrar of Voters Rhonda Rogers. “With its high transmission and mortality rates, COVID-19 poses a significant risk to in-person voters, especially to those voters at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19,” the lawsuit states. “The pandemic has decimated voter registration drive activity, makes it unreasonably dangerous and burdensome to comply with certain requirements for mail-in absentee voting, and threatens massive withdrawals by volunteer poll workers who justifiably fear contracting the disease.”

Full Article: Group seeks mail-in voting for all Louisiana voters during pandemic - News - Houma Today - Houma, LA.

Louisiana: House panel refuses expanded vote by mail | Catherine Hunt/The Advocate

A Louisiana House committee Tuesday rejected legislation that would have allowed all registered voters to vote by mail in all state elections, including this fall’s presidential contest. More voters than normal can cast mail-in ballots in 33 states and Washington, D.C., this year to reduce health risks from the coronavirus. Some states, such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington, rely entirely on mail-in ballots for all their elections. Red states like Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Alaska also have decided to conduct their presidential primaries this year entirely through mail ballots. Michigan, a political swing state, announced Tuesday that it would send mail-in ballots to all its voters for the fall election. New Orleans Democratic Rep. Mandie Landry’s House Bill 419 would not mandate voting by mail but simply allow it to be used more broadly. Before the House and Governmental Affairs committee, the measure failed in a party-line, 9-5 vote.

Full Article: Louisiana House panel refuses expanded vote by mail | Legislature | theadvocate.com.

Louisiana: Suit has been filed challenging State’s COVID-19 absentee voting restrictions | New Orleans’ Multicultural News Source | Fritz Esker/The Louisiana Weekly

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) and the Washington, D.C. law firm Covington & Burling, LLP filed a federal lawsuit on May 7 challenging voting requirements imposed by the state of Louisiana. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, centers around restrictions on the use of absentee mail-in ballots and the health risk to in-person voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, and four individual voters. “Risking your health, and the health of your family, should not be a requirement to partake in the electoral process,” said Catherine Meza, senior counsel at the LDF, in a statement. “We are hoping this lawsuit not only increases access to absentee voting, but also makes in-person voting safer, so Louisianians can exercise their constitutional right without putting their lives at risk.”

Full Article: Suit has been filed challenging La.’s COVID-19 absentee voting restrictions | New Orleans' Multicultural News Source | The Louisiana Weekly.

Louisiana: Voters and advocates sue Louisiana officials over COVID-19 election plans | David Jacobs/The Center Square

Four voters and two advocacy groups have sued Louisiana officials, alleging the state is not doing enough to protect the right to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. State lawmakers have approved an emergency voting plan crafted by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and Attorney General Jeff Landry meant to address public health concerns related to in-person voting. But the plan applies only to a presidential preference and municipal primary election currently scheduled for July and a municipal general election planned for August, not the federal elections set for the fall. Even for the summer elections, Louisiana’s plan doesn’t allow enough people to vote by mail, the four voters, the Louisiana NAACP and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice argue. The plan temporarily adds being subject to a medically necessary quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting a diagnosis, caring for someone who is quarantined, or having a chronic health condition that imparts a higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications as valid reasons to use an absentee ballot. It also temporarily waives the usual requirement that first-time voters must vote in person.

Full Article: Voters and advocates sue Louisiana officials over COVID-19 election plans | Louisiana | thecentersquare.com.

Louisiana: Emergency election plan draws lawsuit over limits on mail-in voting during pandemic | Coronavirus | Sam Karlin/The Advocate

An emergency election plan aimed at addressing voting during the coronavirus pandemic, which Republican lawmakers altered to limit the expansion of mail-in ballots, has drawn a federal lawsuit seeking a more robust expansion of absentee voting. The lawsuit, brought by the NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and four individual voters, says the reasons voters can access mail-in ballots under the plan fall short of protecting voters of the coronavirus, which has taken an outsized toll on Louisiana. It calls the plan “unduly restrictive” and seeks to repeal the requirements that voters present an excuse to receive an absentee ballot, thereby expanding them to everyone. “Risking your health, and the health of your family, should not be a requirement to partake in the electoral process,” Catherine Meza, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “We are hoping this lawsuit not only increases access to absentee voting but also makes in-person voting safer, so that Louisianans can exercise their constitutional right without putting their lives at risk.” The lawsuit also asks for other rules on absentee ballots to be suspended and for early voting to be expanded, among other things, all while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing in Louisiana. The lawsuit argues the election plan would particularly impact black voters, because the virus has taken a disproportionate toll on minorities.

Full Article: Louisiana emergency election plan draws lawsuit over limits on mail-in voting during pandemic | Coronavirus | theadvocate.com.

Louisiana: All-mail voting rejected for primary | Paige Daniel and Abigail Hendren/Houma Today

The question of how Louisiana will run its 2020 primary election in the middle of a pandemic is a divisive one. In deciding on Tuesday to delay Louisiana’s presidential primary to July 11, the Legislature insisted that state election officials scale back plans to rely less on in-person voting and more on mail voting to reduce the health risks. Three blue states–Washington, Oregon and Colorado–conduct all of their elections through mail-in votes, and four red states–Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Alaska–are joining them this year in conducting their presidential primaries entirely through mail ballots. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, 28 other states have announced plans to increase access to absentee ballots or take other actions to keep voters from lining up at polling places. Republican legislators expressed concern that more mail-in ballots could increase the potential for voter fraud. But national election experts say there have been few instances of fraud as other states have expanded voting by mail. And even once the risks from the virus ease, they say, Louisiana could increase voter turnout if it made greater use of alternative voting methods.

Full Article: All-mail voting rejected for La. primary - News - Houma Today - Houma, LA.

Louisiana: Legislature passes election plan after rolling back access to mail-in ballots | Sam Karlan/The Advocate

An emergency plan for Louisiana’s delayed spring elections was approved by the state Legislature after Republican lawmakers rolled back an expansion of mail-in ballots for people concerned about the coronavirus. The state House and Senate both approved the revised plan, crafted by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, even as a contingent of GOP lawmakers sought to block it because they believed it still featured too much access to mail-in ballots. Lawmakers voted by mail on the emergency plan. The House approved it on a 62-to-39 vote and the Senate voted 31-to-8. Following the vote, Ardoin called it a “pragmatic and temporary response” to the pandemic. Ardoin originally worked with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards on the emergency plan, and settled on an expansion of mail-in ballots to those 60 or older, those subject to a stay-at-home order, those unable to appear in public due to concern of exposure or transmission of COVID-19, or those caring for a child or grandchild whose school or child care provider is closed because of the virus, among others.

Full Article: Louisiana Legislature passes election plan after rolling back access to mail-in ballots | Coronavirus | theadvocate.com.

Louisiana: Emergency plan for delayed elections gains approval after this change | Sam Karlin/The Advocate

Two key Republican-led legislative committees and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards have agreed on an emergency plan for the delayed spring elections, after GOP lawmakers rolled back the number of reasons people could access mail-in ballots that were included in an initial plan debated last week. GOP lawmakers on the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, who balked at the original plan because they claimed the expansion of mail-in ballots would invite voter fraud into the elections, approved the revised plan unanimously Wednesday morning. The House and Governmental Affairs Committee later approved the plan on an 11-5 vote. It also needs the approval of the full House and Senate. The new plan, submitted by Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, reduces the number of reasons people can qualify for an absentee ballot out of concern for the coronavirus. Originally, the plan would have allowed absentee ballots for those 60 or older, those subject to a stay-at-home order, those unable to appear in public due to concern of exposure or transmission of COVID-19, or those caring for a child or grandchild whose school or child care provider is closed because of the virus.

Full Article: Emergency plan for delayed Louisiana elections gains approval after this change | Coronavirus | theadvocate.com.

Louisiana: Republican state senators block an emergency plan to expand early voting | Associated Press

Republican state senators on Wednesday blocked an emergency plan to expand early voting and mail-in balloting options for Louisiana’s July presidential primary, rejecting calls to increase vote-by-mail options for people worried about the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in one of the nation’s larger outbreaks. GOP Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin ran into a wall of opposition from his fellow Republicans — including objections from the state Republican Party — for his proposal. With a 5-1 vote, the Senate and Governmental Affairs rejected an emergency certification that Ardoin needed to move ahead with the changes to polling places, early voting timelines and absentee-by-mail voting eligibility. Sen. Ed Price of Gonzales, the only Democrat to attend the hearing, was the lone supporter. The vote’s impact on the election is uncertain. Senators suggested Ardoin should make changes and return with a new proposal, but Ardoin warned he wasn’t certain he could negotiate a redesigned plan in time to order the supplies he’d need to conduct a safe election, such as additional voting equipment and protective gear for poll workers.

Full Article: Louisiana Republican state senators block an emergency plan to expand early voting.

Louisiana: State postpones Democratic primary over coronavirus, the first state to do so | Jacob Pramuk/CNBC

Louisiana will postpone its presidential primaries set for next month, becoming the first state to take the step as fears about the coronavirus outbreak spread. The state will push its presidential nominating contests back to June 20 from the planned date of April 4, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday. It has also delayed its municipal elections until July 25. “We want to protect the health and safety of all Louisianans by doing our part to prevent the spread of this highly infectious disease,” Ardoin told reporters.  As the global pandemic upends American life, it has also ground pivotal 2020 presidential campaign operations to a near halt.

Full Article: Louisiana postpones Democratic primary over coronavirus, the first state to do so.

Louisiana: State Restarting Bid Process for New Voting Machines | Melinda Deslatte/Associated Press

Louisiana is restarting its stalled effort to replace its voting machines, with the solicitation for bidders expected to go out shortly, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said Tuesday. New machines, however, won’t be in place quickly. Louisiana will continue casting ballots this fall on the same types of voting system that it has used for 15 years, without the paper backup advocated by many elections security experts. “It’ll be after the election. It won’t be for the presidential election, because we don’t have the time to get through the (bid) process completely,” Ardoin, the state’s chief elections official, told lawmakers during a House Appropriations Committee budget hearing. Allegations of improper bid handling derailed a previous effort to replace Louisiana’s voting machines, so the secretary of state’s office has had to redo its vendor search process. Ardoin’s office has $5.8 million in federal money for voting machines set aside whenever his agency enters into a new contract. He’s asking lawmakers to steer another $1.3 million in state financing to the plan in next year’s budget, to draw down additional federal dollars.

Full Article: Louisiana Restarting Bid Process for New Voting Machines | Louisiana News | US News.

Louisiana: Secretary of State says 2020 election secure without paper ballots | David Jacobs/The Center Square

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin hopes to acquire electronic voting machines that also record votes on paper, though he said this year’s elections will be secure even without a paper trail. Ardoin spoke Thursday evening at a panel hosted by LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communications. Panelist Susan Greenhalgh, policy advisor for the National Election Defense Coalition, said digital-only voting is the “most concerning” method from a security standpoint. Critics say Louisiana voting machines’ lack of a paper component goes against the national trend and violates best practices. Greenhalgh said voting machines can malfunction and can be “maliciously infected” even if they’re not connected to the internet. Paper ballots allow voters to see for themselves that their vote was tallied correctly, while a “black box” voting machine does not, she said.  Paper backups also can be used to audit the electronic results, Greenhalgh added. “We need to trust the process,” she said.

Full Article: Secretary of State says 2020 election secure without paper ballots – New Orleans CityBusiness.

Louisiana: First phase of transition to new voting system expected to cost about $12 million | David Jacobs/The Center Square

The first phase of Louisiana’s transition to a new voting system will cost about $12 million, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said.

Ardoin, whose office runs the state’s elections, is requesting $1.3 million from the state general fund this session, which will be used as a match to qualify for $6.6 million in federal funds, he said. A state fund that contains $5.8 million will be used to cover the rest.

“There is no way, under any circumstances, that we will have new equipment for the [2020] presidential election,” Ardoin said.

The Secretary of State’s office attempted to award a contract for a new voting system, worth up to $95 million, in 2018. That process started under Tom Schedler, Ardoin’s predecessor. But Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration scrapped the contract, saying the office didn’t follow rules meant to protect the integrity of the solicitation process.

Ardoin told members of the legislature’s governmental affairs committee that he couldn’t publicly discuss details of the new procurement process prior to the issuance of the request for proposals. He expects to meet with procurement officials soon to discuss the RFP.

Once the proposal is finalized, Ardoin expects to have further discussions with lawmakers about how much additional money over how many years will be needed for the full transition to a new system, he said.

Ardoin also is seeking a pay bump for election commissioners that work during the early voting period from $100 a day to $150. He says it is becoming more difficult to find commissioners, and said it is helpful to be able to retain the same commissioners for consistency throughout the early voting process.

About 31 percent of voters during the last state election voted early, he said.

Among a package of election-related bills Ardoin’s office is supporting is one that would allow clerks of court to summon law enforcement to voting locations to restore order if needed. Under current law, only election commissioners have that authority, and on-duty law enforcement officers are not allowed to enter a polling place without the commissioner’s permission.

The quickest way to disrupt an election is to shut down a polling place for some period of time, Ardoin said. Though he doesn’t expect it will be necessary, giving a clerk this legal right could be useful if the commissioner in charge is incapacitated.

“As we go through all of the discussions of how to keep our voters safe and our commissioners safe, this is one of the areas we felt needed some immediate attention,” he said.

Full Article: First phase of transition to new Louisiana voting system expected to cost about $12 million | Louisiana | thecentersquare.com.

Full Article: First phase of transition to new Louisiana voting system expected to cost about $12 million | Louisiana | thecentersquare.com.

Louisiana: How Louisiana ended up this year’s election security outlier | David Hawkings/The Fulcrum

The moment of truth for voting system reliability remains nearly nine months off, but already Louisiana has earned itself a troublesome and unique footnote in the story of the 2020 presidential election. It will surely be the only state running totally afoul of the new world of balloting best practices, which says creating and keeping a paper record is the only way to assure every vote is counted accurately (and recounted if need be) and properly reflects the will of the voter. There won’t be a single sheet of paper involved in tabulating the results in Louisiana on Election Day — unlike any of the other 49 states, according to a comprehensive study by Verified Voting, a nonpartisan group that promotes the integrity of elections. All 3,934 polling places will use entirely electronic voting machines that are at least 15 years old, and which do not generate printouts of anything as a fail-safe if something goes wrong.

Full Article: How Louisiana ended up this year’s election security outlier - The Fulcrum.

Louisiana: Hacks on Louisiana Parishes Hint at Nightmare Election Scenario | Kartikay Mehrotra/Bloomberg

James Wroten called the clerk of court in Vernon Parish, Louisiana last November with an urgent message. The timing wasn’t convenient. The clerk, Jeffrey Skidmore, was relaxing on his back porch and hoping to soak in some final moments of quiet before state and local elections. Skidmore let the call go to voicemail. But Wroten, whose company manages IT services for small companies and local governments, persisted until Skidmore finally picked up. “He told me we’d been infected by ransomware and to ask all 14 of my employees not to go into the office or try to access any of their files,” said Skidmore. “I was stunned. We had an election in six days.” That call, Wroten later recalled, was the start of one of the worst weeks of his life. Hackers had infiltrated Wroten’s company, Need Computer Help. From there, the attackers used the connections Wroten’s employees need to do their job in order to breach the networks of Vernon Parish and six other local parishes, the Louisiana equivalent of counties. The attacks highlight how vulnerable local jurisdictions remain despite four years of efforts to shore up defenses in preparation for the 2020 presidential election.

Full Article: Hacks on Louisiana Parishes Hint at Nightmare Election Scenario.

Louisiana: Amid election fears, Louisiana is one of the last states to use aging Sequoia Advantage machines in 2020 | Sam Karlin/The Advocate

When voters in Louisiana go to the polls during the 2020 presidential election, they will cast their ballots on aging electronic voting machines that the nation has largely abandoned over concerns that they have no paper record that could serve as a fail-safe if something goes wrong. The state is moving toward getting new machines that will provide a paper record of votes, and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the state’s chief elections official, had aimed to have them ready for the 2020 elections. But the contract with a private vendor selected by Ardoin’s office was cancelled after a challenge to the bid process, stalling delivery of the new machines. Election security has taken on newfound importance in recent years, following Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And in Louisiana, a string of cyber attacks against state and local governments that crippled public-facing departments and cost millions of dollars has shone a light on cybersecurity more broadly. Officials, including Ardoin, say they are more prepared to run secure elections in 2020 than ever before, following election interference in 2016 that caught many off guard and prompted reviews among federal and state policymakers. Still, Louisiana’s aging machines invite a greater risk of malfunction than newer equipment that features a paper backup, experts say. And while Ardoin insists there is no risk of hacking because the machines are not connected to the internet and aren’t programmed with computers that are connected to the internet, it is impossible to eliminate the risk of malware entirely, especially if the computers used to program the machines were inadvertently connected to the internet.

Full Article: Amid election fears, Louisiana is one of the last states to use aging machines in 2020 | Elections | theadvocate.com.

Louisiana: Cyber Attack Has Louisiana State Lawmakers Asking Questions | Chuck Smith/Red River Radio

The ransom-ware  cyberattack that occurred two weeks ago on Louisiana’s state government computer servers disrupted several state agency operations and prompted Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency. The state activated its cybersecurity response team following the ransomware attack on government servers, and according to a press release the state did not lose any data nor pay any ransom, AND no personal data was compromised as state cyber-experts explained the attack was aimed at disrupting state server operations only. The shut-down was to prevent any unauthorized access and allow tech teams to take necessary cyber-security measures. While inconvenient the breach was nowhere near the worst-case scenario, of widespread  data  theft  or  crippled government services  for weeks or months. During  a recent meeting of the Joint House and Senate Budget Committee, Republican  Sen. Sharon  Hewitt  from  Slidell  praised  the quick response from Louisiana’s technology services office to the Nov. 18th  ransom-ware, but asked about  potential  vulnerabilities for future attacks.

Full Article: Cyber Attack Has Louisiana State Lawmakers Asking Questions | Red River Radio.

Louisiana: No data lost, no ransom paid in Louisiana cyber attack; Ardoin says no impact on state elections | Mark Ballard/The Advocate

Monday’s ransomware attack, which crippled about 10% of the state’s computer network servers just hours after votes were tallied in statewide elections for governor, legislative seats and other positions prompted many to look for intrigue, a legislative panel heard Friday. “A lot of the conspiracy theorists are calling me,” said state Sen. Bodi White, R-Central. He questioned whether the attack, which kept many in state government from using their computers throughout much of the week, could cause problems for certification of election results or changed numbers in election returns. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said no. “Nothing impacted our system,” Ardoin said in an interview Friday. The website was down for a while. But, for the most part, the election office’s databases for voters and votes are separate from the state system.

Full Article: No data lost, no ransom paid in Louisiana cyber attack; Ardoin says no impact on state elections | Legislature | theadvocate.com.