Louisiana GOP blocks emergency election plan because it would let 'anybody' vote

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Louisiana Republican legislators rejected a bipartisan measure to ensure safer voting during a health crisis.

Republican legislators in Louisiana rejected an emergency measure to allow more state residents to vote safely by absentee ballot during the coronavirus crisis, the Advocate reported on Wednesday.

After a three-hour hearing, the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee voted along party lines, 5-1, against the measure, which was supported by Louisiana's Democratic governor and Republican secretary of state.

The plan would have allowed absentee voting for people with underlying health conditions, people 60 years of age or older, residents subject to stay-at-home orders, and anyone who was concerned about going out in public during the pandemic. It would also expand access to early voting and only applied to elections scheduled for July and August.

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Republicans opposed the measure because it would "everyone" to vote safely.

"It is extremely broad and basically covers everyone in Louisiana," state Sen. Barry Milligan (R-Shreveport) said. Milligan claimed voter fraud as a reason to oppose the measure, even though numerous studies have shown such fraud to be extraordinarily rare. “Anybody could say, ‘Hey, I’m scared to death,’ and they can absentee vote,” he said.

The vote is the latest Republican attempt to make it harder for people to cast ballots during the pandemic.

In Wisconsin, Republicans opposed a move by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, to delay the state's April 7 election and permit more time for residents to cast absentee ballots by mail.

Missouri's Republican governor, Mike Parson, said on Tuesday that the pandemic was not a valid excuse for residents to request an absentee ballot. Missouri law allows only six valid excuses for residents to request an absentee ballot, and avoidance of a pandemic is not one of them.

Donald Trump has made false claims about voter fraud as some states seek to expand access to absentee voting.

"Mail ballots — they cheat. OK? People cheat," Trump said on April 7. There is no evidence to back up Trump's claim.

Trump also revealed a political reason for his stance against mail-in voting, tweeting on April 8 that, "for whatever reason, [it] doesn't work out well for Republicans."

In order to help slow the spread of the pandemic, election officials should encourage "mail-in methods of voting if allowed in the jurisdiction" and "early voting, where voter crowds may be smaller throughout the day," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends.

At a Wednesday press conference, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said that "nobody should have to choose between exercising their right to vote and potentially endangering themselves or others."

Louisiana's presidential primary election has been postponed twice and will now take place on July 11. The state will hold local elections on Aug. 15.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.