BATON ROUGE, La. – Gov. John Bel Edwards on Tuesday again delayed Louisiana's presidential primary because of the coronavirus — this time to July 11 — as the state's chief elections officer asked lawmakers to expand mail-in balloting and early voting.
The primary originally had been scheduled for April 4. Edwards has pushed back the election twice at the request of Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin as Louisiana continues to grapple with the virus outbreak, which has hit the state especially hard.
In the past month, more than a dozen states have postponed their primaries to give them time to adjust and plan. Louisiana’s primary initially was postponed until June 20, before being pushed back an extra three weeks to July, making it one of the last states on the current primary calendar.
Ardoin, a Republican, also is asking lawmakers to approve emergency procedures for the election, according to GOP Rep. Stephen Dwight, who chairs the House and Governmental Affairs Committee that oversees elections issues. The secretary of state wants to expand early voting from one week to two weeks, allow mail-in ballots for people who have exhibited symptoms of the virus and change some precinct locations, Dwight said.
The House and Senate elections oversight committees have meetings scheduled Wednesday to consider the request. Ardoin's spokesman did not return a call for comment Tuesday or provide advance information about what he's seeking from lawmakers.
Dwight said the most contentious portion of Ardoin's emergency request centers on the mail-in ballots, which would expand an absentee balloting procedure currently in place for members of the military, overseas voters and people with certain medical conditions. Conservative Republicans oppose the expansion proposal while Democrats want to move to an entirely mail-in ballot procedure for the primary, Dwight said.
Among the questions, Dwight said: “If I have COVID-19 and am self-isolating, how do I prove that (to get a mail-in ballot)? I don't know.”
Louisiana's election will have no sway over who will be the Republican and Democratic nominees for president, with President Donald Trump running for reelection as the GOP pick and the Democratic field in recent days whittled to former Vice President Joe Biden.
Also on the primary ballot in Louisiana are elections for political party governing committees, along with some municipal and local proposition elections. Runoff elections for the municipal positions have been rescheduled to Aug. 15.