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Secretary of State Ardoin pushes for U.S. citizenship check on jury duty notices

By: - January 25, 2023 8:30 am
A closeup image of a jury duty summons

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said requiring the parish officials to include a question about U.S. citizenship on jury duty forms would allow his office “to fulfill its statutory duties” to verify voters are eligible to participate in all Louisiana elections. (Canva image)

Parish court officials in Louisiana could be required to ask residents to verify their United States citizenship if state lawmakers approve a proposal heading their way.

The State Board of Election Officials voted Tuesday to recommend that clerks of court ask about someone’s citizenship status when they send out a jury duty notice. The board will forward a draft bill to the Louisiana Legislature for consideration during its regular session that starts April 10.

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who chairs the elections officials board, said requiring the question on jury duty forms would allow his office “to fulfill its statutory duties.”

State law requires clerks of court to notify the parish registrar of voters when jury duty notices are returned because the prospective juror no longer lives in the parish.  

The clerks must inform the Secretary of State when a jury summons is returned because the person is not a U.S. citizen, but there is no hard requirement in state law that local officials have to ask the actual question. Nor is there uniform language saying how the question should be worded on the forms.   

Rapides Parish Clerk of Court Robin Hooter, who sits on the State Board of Election Officials, said she already includes the citizenship question on jury summonses. 

The citizenship status of voters in Louisiana is getting closer scrutiny after an amendment to the Louisiana Constitution was approved last month that requires U.S. citizenship in order to register and vote in the state. Critics questioned the wisdom of the amendment because state citizenship is already required to vote. Ardoin, who supported the amendment, said there was a gap in state law that could confuse “citizen” with “resident” when the proposal was being debated in the legislature.

Proponents argued the constitutional amendment was needed to stop parishes, cities and towns from establishing rules that allow non-U.S. residents to vote in local elections, although there have been no instances of that taking place in Louisiana. The change to the state charter was approved with 73% support on the Dec. 10 ballot.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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