Power Coalition for Equity and Justice v. John Bel Edwards

Date Filed: 05/07/2020

On May 7, 2020, LDF filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana challenging several provisions of Louisiana’s absentee and early voting laws and procedures that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, unduly and severely burden the fundamental right to vote in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments and the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, and four individual voters.

Currently, voters in Louisiana must identify an “excuse” to be eligible to vote by absentee ballot. The Secretary of State has allowed voters with specific underlying medical conditions or who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to request an absentee ballot, but does not include any accommodation that would permit all eligible voters who have concerns about contracting or transmitting COVID-19 to receive an absentee ballot.

Louisiana also requires that absentee ballots be signed by a witness to confirm that the identity of the voter matches the ballot. This requirement endangers vulnerable voters by forcing them to leave their home or invite others into their home, increasing the likelihood of infection.

The complaint explains that the expansion of absentee ballot access is also essential because it reduces the number of people who vote in person, which is important to maintain social distancing at polling places. Similarly, the lawsuit seeks to reduce crowds at polling places by advocating for an extension of early voting. On June 23, 2020, the case was dismissed.