U.S. District Court: Changes to Election Plan A “Bumbling Attempt to Fix What’s Not Broken”

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued a ruling today supporting Gov. John Bel Edwards’ request to implement a safer emergency election plan that includes more mail-in voting options. In the ruling, Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick referred to Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s efforts to change the already successful emergency election plan that was used in July and August “bumbling attempts to fix what was not broken.”

“The Emergency Election Plan put in place for July and August, which added Virus-related excuses to vote by mail, was not broken; the bumbling attempts to fix what was not broken have brought us to today,” Judge Dick writes.

Under the new Emergency Election Plan drafted by Ardoin, the early voting period would have been extended to ten days and offered mail-in voting only to those registered voters who had tested positive for COVID-19 during and after early voting but before election day. However, Gov. Edwards rejected the plan, stating that it was “contrary to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).”

In defending the plan, Ardoin enlisted the testimony of Dr. Quentin Kidd, who presented a comparative analysis of elections in other states. According to the court ruling, Dr. Kidd’s opinion was found “irrelevant.”

“The Court is disinclined to find that the epidemiological situation on the ground in other states, during other elections dating back more than six months in some cases, is evidence of the likely burden on Louisiana voters in November and December. In Dr. Kidd’s words, it is not predictive.”

In addition, the court also found the testimony of Ardoin’s other medical expert, Dr. Philip Barie, “lacked credibility.”

“His claim that ‘the virus may have already substantially disappeared’ is contradicted by the current report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported 256,159 new infections in the seven days preceding the hearing,” Judge Dick’s ruling states. “Even assuming 90% of those cases could be false positives, as Dr. Barie suggests, 25,615 new cases in seven days is hardly the mark of a ‘disappeared’ virus.”

The Court found that leaving the summer election plan in place would be the best move, resulting in a likely total of an additional 9,000 mail-in ballots; a number that should not overwhelm the vote tabulation process already in place. In addition, the Court found that “the perceived unfairness of eliminating Virus-related protections that were perfectly acceptable to state officials for the summer elections is more detrimental to public confidence in the elections than a modest increase in mail-in voting.”

Gov. Edwards applauded the ruling in a press release, saying, “the Secretary of State should accept the Court’s ruling and immediately implement the election plan for the upcoming election in November as ordered…I pledge to support this effort to ensure that all Louisianans can safely vote, in person or by mail if they qualify.”

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