Additional early voting locations rejected in La. House committee
Proposal would have allowed, not required sites in statewide elections
An early voting sign outside a voting location in Baker, for the 2022 midterm elections. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
Legislation that would have allowed — but not required — parishes to add early voting locations failed Tuesday in a Louisiana House committee, with opponents concerned about its cost and local election staffing.
House Bill 538 from Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, includes guidelines that set out the minimum number of early voting locations a parish should have based on its population and area. Lawmakers on the House and Governmental Affairs Committee discussed how population shifts in their parishes show a need for new polling sites, and how some rural parish residents have to cover long distances to reach an early voting location.
Another polling site could only be added as long as parish election officials had the logistical support of the Secretary of State and the accompanying state funding, according to the proposal. It would also only permit an additional early voting site for statewide elections.
Although Jenkins said merely approving his bill did not create a cost for the state, a fiscal note attached to his legislation indicated adding 30 more early voting sites would cost the state more than $11 million over four years of implementation. Jenkins said he had amended his bill to call for a minimum of 20 new polling locations, but a fiscal note for that count was not publicly available.
Carlos Pollard with the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice provided data to the committee in support of Jenkins’ bill. Out of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, 36 already have the number of early voting recommended in the legislation. Of the 28 remaining parishes, 26 are encouraged to add one early voting location and two parishes should add two.
Parishes recommended to add one early voting site: East Baton Rouge, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Jefferson David, Lafayette, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Natchitoches, Orleans, Rapides, Sabine, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Vernon, West Feliciana Parishes recommended to add two early voting sites: Caddo, Terrebonne
Parishes recommended to add one early voting site:
East Baton Rouge, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson, Jefferson David, Lafayette, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Natchitoches, Orleans, Rapides, Sabine, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Vernon, West Feliciana
Parishes recommended to add two early voting sites:
The parishes with an inadequate number of early voting sites, based on the bill’s guidelines, include 21 based on population, three based on landmass and four based on both.
State Commissioner of Elections Sherri Wharton Hadskey told the committee Louisiana doesn’t currently have enough voting machines to accommodate a significant increase in early voting locations and would have to “rob Peter to pay Paul” to meet any needs Jenkins’ legislation would create.
The state is in the process of replacing its outdated voting machines. It stretched out for years because bidding has been called into question multiple times, and a technology selection task force spent months hearing from people who denied the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Hadskey’s boss, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, also appeared before the committee to share information on the bill’s impact.
“You need to realize that you’re only adding more new voting locations,” Ardoin said. “You’re not adding voters.”
The committee voted 5-5 on Jenkins’ bill, with Rep. Malinda White, R-Bogalusa, joining four Democratic members in support of the bill.
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