Voting is one of the oldest forms of democracy, but this election season is looking a little different from most.
Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin moved Louisiana’s presidential primary from April 4 to June 20 due to the coronavirus.
With the stay-home ordered extended through April 30, some question whether it will be safe to vote in-person by June.
Fourth-year LSU student Catherine McKinney created a social media movement in response to LA House Bill 419 proposed by Rep. Mandie Landry.
“Basically, I got very bored in quarantine and decided I want to civically engage,” McKinney said.
Louisiana Vote by Mail is a non-partisan organization composed of college students to advocate for mail-in ballots in Louisiana.
Louisiana is one of 17 states with restrictions on absentee voting, and McKinney believes now is a good time to right this overlooked issue.
“Especially during coronavirus, it’s obviously really important because we don’t want people risking life and limb just to cast their vote,” McKinney said. “And especially with poll workers in Louisiana being disproportionately elderly, we want to make sure we’re keeping them safe as well.”
Louisiana Vote by Mail’s goal is to urge Secretary Ardoin to allow absentee voting for all voters to avoid another postponement.
“We know it’s on his mind,” McKinney said. “We don’t really know what his entire thoughts are yet, but we know it’s something being talked about, and we know it’s something that it’s in the process of coming to fruition.”
In a statement to Tiger TV, Secretary Ardoin’s office said, “While Louisiana has been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, our commitment to providing safe, secure and fair elections has not wavered. We are working diligently and exploring all options for delivering elections in these unprecedented times. We will publish more updates as the details for delivering the election are finalized.”
Beyond coronavirus solutions, McKinney’s goal is to increase voter turnout to disenfranchised voters. A study by The Washington Post reports an increase in voter turnout by 3.3 percent in states that allow any voter to vote absentee.
“We really don’t care what party you’re in,” McKinney said. “We just want you to be able to have your voice heard.”
A criticism of voting by mail is a lack of proper funding to distribute materials. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants more money allocated to mail-in ballots in the next coronavirus bill, but how long can states wait to implement these new measures?
Unprecedented times tend to call for unprecedented actions put in place by states set in their ways. As Louisiana’s numbers continue to grow, lawmakers begin to look at new ways to uphold democracy while also saving lives.
“Ultimately, that’s what we want – we want to live in a democracy where everyone can have that ability to vote,” McKinney said.