LOUISIANA REPUBLICANS ALL IN ON TRUMP’S SCHEMES TO STAY IN POWER
By C.C. Campbell-Rock
Louisiana Secretary of State Pulls Voter Suppression Tricks to Help Trump
The New Orleans City Council’s lawsuit against Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin is just the latest legal action taken against the state and Ardoin over voter suppression tricks.
Councilwoman-at-Large Helen Moreno last week said the Council was disappointed to learn that Ardoin had limited the number of drop-off locations for absentee ballots, ignoring the number of locations Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson had initially cited.
“We were incredibly disappointed to find out that the secretary of state would not be allowing our Orleans Registrar Of Voters to have multiple locations around the city, that she would only be able to have these curbside drop-off locations at her office and also possibly at the Algiers satellite office and that’s it,” Moreno told reporters.
Councilmembers said Ardoin was misinterpreting the law regarding such locations and engaging in voter suppression. Shortly after the announcement, a civil court judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Ardoin from limiting the drop-off locations.
Ardoin, whose office is responsible for elections in Louisiana, recently told WWL-TV has no choice in the matter. “The law requires the ballots be dropped off at the registrar’s office, so those curbside locations have to be at a registrar’s office,” he said on Oct. 8.
“The law is clearly being interpreted incorrectly by the secretary of state,” Moreno added. “The word ‘office’ is never mentioned in state law.”
“This is voter suppression in its purest form,” District B Councilman Jay Banks said. “That is why this is being done, to discourage people from going.” A preliminary injunction hearing will be held Oct. 21.
Absentee ballot collection in person begins Oct. 28 and ends Nov. 2.
The City Council’s October 14th filing marked the second time in less than a month that Ardoin has been sued for pulling voter suppression schemes.
Bowing to pressure from Louisiana’s Republican dominated legislature, Ardoin in August, watered down the Emergency COVID-19 Voting Plan for the November election, which would have relaxed restrictions around who could vote by absentee ballot.
The plan changed from an emergency voting plan in which anyone concerned about COVID-19 could request an absentee ballot, to only people who are disabled, away from Louisiana, over 65, and those who are ill could request the mail-in ballot.
“Louisiana is one of only eight states that require an excuse for voters to access mail-in ballots,” The New York Times reported. “Another 33 states, representing 55% of voters, have absentee voting allowed for all voters, and another nine states mail ballots to all voters.”
In tabling Ardoin’s initial plan, Republican legislators were forcing people to go out and risk their lives to vote.
Jennifer Harding and Jasmine Pogue of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice last month filed suit against Governor John Bel Edwards, Kyle Ardoin, and state Attorney Jeff Landry over Ardoin’s mail-in ballot restrictions.
Ardoin told the media in September that he wouldn’t appeal federal trial court’s decision that requires expanded availability to absentee mail ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential election. He said he may appeal the underlying law the judge used in her ruling. In doing so, Ardoin tipped his hand about ongoing plans to suppress the vote.
The judge also added more days for early voting. A 10-day early voting period begins Oct. 16 and continues through Oct. 27 (except Sundays)
Also, Ardoin indicated his office would not release unofficial election results on election night, writing in the plan that no results will be reported until the scanning and tabulation of all mail-in ballots is complete, “not longer than two weeks after election day.” Ardoin’s statement adds fuel to Trump’s declaration that if he doesn’t see results on election night, he’ll say the election was rigged.
The Secretary of State is a staunch Trump supporter as are his fellow Republican elected officials. Yet, when Trump campaigned in Monroe, Louisiana for gubernatorial Republican candidate Eddie Rispone, Ardoin shared a video of his campaign efforts at the Trump rally.
Bayou Briefs called Ardoin’s participation in Rispone’s campaign event “illegal.” “According to La. R.S. 18:18.2, the Secretary of State is prohibited from publicly campaigning or participating in any activity in support of any candidate other than himself.”
Add to Ardoin’s and Republican legislators’ efforts to block the black vote, the recent news about Trump’s shenanigans with the United States Postal Service, and you have a recipe for voter suppression.
“Leroy Chapman, president of the American Postal Workers Union’s New Orleans local, said mail delivery in New Orleans has slackened because postal officials have removed five of the 14 high-speed mail processing machines at the Loyola Avenue hub.”
Louisiana’s Long History of Voter Suppression
“I don’t trust Ardoin,” says Carl Galmon, a civil rights activist who has been sounding the alarm about voter suppression and a lack of polling places in Pontchartrain Park and the state’s overseeing of early voting in New Orleans.
In Voter Suppression in Louisiana, a 2019 report, Galmon, a board member of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute and Ted Quant, a former staff member of the Voter Education Project, Inc., documented the history of voter suppression in Louisiana.
“In 1898, Louisiana held a state convention. The purpose of the convention was to come up with laws to systematically exclude African-Americans from the electoral process. The marching order for the convention was to whitewash the voter rolls as far as possible without running afoul of federal law. Our purpose is “to exclude every Negro from the electoral process,” said delegate L.J. Dossman.
They adopted the 3-9 non-unanimous verdict, which was amended in the 1970s to a 2-10 verdict for felony convictions. Not until 2018 was it abolished in the legislature and in a statewide referendum that passed by a 2-1 popular vote. The second law passed was the Section 5 law of the Grandfather Clause, which mandated that no man eligible to vote on January 1, 1867, nor his grandson would be required to meet literacy or property-ownership requirements. Since black men were not granted the right to vote until the 15th Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1870, they were excluded from the exemption.
However, when Oklahoma’s grandfather clause was deemed unconstitutional in 1915, the following year, New Orleans officials created a voter registration form just for blacks.
“Voter suppression in New Orleans in 2019 includes the placement of polling places outside the precinct where people live,” they wrote. Galmon and Quant say New Orleans is violating the Louisiana Constitution, which mandates a polling place for each precinct.
“The reality is that each precinct does not have a polling place and voters must travel miles to a location where polling machines from many precincts are packed. This is a tactic to shave black votes.”
“By any measure, attempts to dilute Africa n-American voting strength in Louisiana have been widespread,” Debgo P. Adegbile, the former director of litigation for the NAACP-Legal Defense and Education Fund wrote in a 2006 report calling for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. “Louisiana violated the VRA 146 times” he wrote.
The Louisiana Legislature Does Not Reflect the State’s Diverse Population
Although Louisiana’s governor is a democrat, Louisiana is considered to be a “red state” because of its Republican led state legislature. Both the state senate and state house are dominated by Republicans. The lopsided advantage in the state legislature speaks volumes about the amount of racial and partisan gerrymandering the Republican caucus has done to stay in power. The Republicans draw districts lines that either pack blacks into a single district or draw lines around predominately black areas to create predominately white districts.
“Louisiana is the most gerrymandered state in the deep south,” Galmon explains. The use of gerrymandering during redistricting after the 2010 Census has led to the white Republican-domination Louisiana legislature. State Senator Hewitt’s district is a prime example of a racially gerrymandered district. Hewitt represents portions of Orleans Parish(white neighborhoods), and predominately white St. Tammany, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines Parishes.
State’s Population vs Elected Officials
“Elected officials in Louisiana do not reflect the state’s diversity,” Galmon affirms. Louisiana’s population is 58.5% white and 44% minority (32.2% African Americans).
Of 39 state senators, blacks make up 25.64% (10) and whites are 74.35% (29). Republicans in the Senate 69.23% (27) Democrats in the Senate 30.77% (12). In the House, Republican are 64.7% (68) of representatives, Democrats are 33.3% (35). Whites hold 74.2% (78) of the seats; Blacks hold 25.7% (27) of the seats.
Although many of Louisiana’s Republican officeholders seem to be aligned with Trump’s coronavirus denial; his “Herd Mentality” (Trump made a Freudian slip while references Herd Immunity); white superiority views (Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry fought to retain the non-unanimous jury law and against allowing ex-felons to vote), and holding on to power at any cost, it’s clear that unless people of color in Louisiana form a voting bloc, Louisiana’s Republican state legislators will once again draw district lines that dilute the votes of people of color.