Louisiana House panel refuses expanded vote by mail

Mandie Landry                                                        (Photo Credit: Rep. Mandie Landry)

Published: May 19, 2020

By: Catherine Hunt, LSU Manship School News Service

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.

Democrats have pushed to expand voting by mail to give access to voters who may be afraid to go to the polls, especially with the risks from COVID-19. Louisiana’s current absentee voting laws allow registered voters to vote by mail, but only under certain conditions, such as military deployment, being away for college or being 65 years of age or older.

Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that more absentee ballots could lead to voter fraud.

“I feel expanding it would be detrimental to the security of our elections,” said Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton.

But data has shown that voter fraud is rare when it comes to voting by mail. In fact, Louisiana has one of the best voting systems in the nation, according to Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Republican.

Since 2004, only four cases of voter fraud have been confirmed in Louisiana, said Charlie Stephens of the Louisiana Vote-By-Mail initiative. None of those cases involved mail-in ballots.

Voting by mail could make the election process more secure by creating a paper trail during a time in which cyberattacks have become more common, said Landry.

Read more at The Advocate.

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