Bill is overhauled to streamline emergency election plans and expand early voting

Original version would have removed governor’s veto authority

Sharon Hewitt
Sharon Hewitt

A bill that initially would have removed the governor’s power to veto emergency election plans underwent wholesale changes Tuesday with an amendment that would retain the governor’s veto power and streamline the process Louisiana uses to provide special accommodations for voters during an emergency. The bill also seeks to expand early voting locations.

With no objections, representatives on the House and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the newly-amended Senate Bill 20, introduced by Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell. The bill will go to the House floor for final debate and consideration, and if passed must return to the Senate for consideration.

Under the new proposal, the secretary of state would be able to present multiple versions of an emergency election plan to a joint House-Senate governmental affairs committee. Lawmakers on the committee would be able to offer amendments and ask the secretary to change any aspects of the plan. The governor or his designee may attend the meeting and propose changes.

Once the committee approves a plan, the full legislature would have five days to approve it and the governor would then have five days to approve or veto it. 

Consistent with other bills, two thirds of each chamber would be required to override the veto. 

The bill would also remove some restrictions that require votes to be cast at registrars’ offices and allow them to be cast at locations that may be more accessible. Residents have been waiting hours to cast ballots at early voting locations this week, so having more options might make those lines shorter. 

As originally drafted, Hewitt’s bill sought to establish an Emergency Election Commission comprised of 10 members, including eight legislators, the governor, and the secretary of state. The legislature  would have had final say on emergency election plans, and the governor wouldn’t  have been able to block it. That version of the bill passed the Senate 22-12, but in the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, argued that a commission that put together lawmakers and executive branch leaders together would likely violate the state’s separation of powers clause. 

Hewitt said Tuesday that she worked with Ivey and Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin to improve her bill, which received no objections from anyone onthe committee.