By: Natasha Merle, Associate Counsel and Fried Frank Fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
On November 8th, millions of Americans went to their local polling precincts and cast ballots in the general election. By the early morning of November 9th, voters knew not only the President-Elect but also who would occupy 99 of the 100 seats in the Senate when the 115th Congress is seated in January. The only seat yet to be filled is that for Louisiana, and the decision for this seat will be made on December 10th.
Louisiana’s Senate election features an open primary in which 24 Democratic and Republican senatorial candidates squared off on November 8th. Since no candidate received 50% or more of the vote, the two top finishers will meet on December 10th for a run-off to determine who will take that last pivotal seat in the Senate. This is a race to which Louisiana voters, and indeed the entire nation, need to pay attention. Voters should make sure their voice is heard by casting a ballot on December 10th.
Our country is run by elected officials. Everyone, from our local officials to our President, plays a role in shaping and influencing the policies and laws that impact our day-to-day lives. This includes our congressional representatives. It is our duty as citizens to exercise our right to choose these officials in every election, thereby impacting us on the local to national level. There was a time when a citizen could not vote unless you were a white male, or a landowner, or if you could afford to pay a poll tax or pass a literacy test. The hard-fought battle to ensure voting rights to all Americans extended over many years and the sacrifice it took cannot be taken for granted. Every election is important, whether you are voting for the President or a Mayor, whether your party will take a majority, or not. This Senate run-off is of monumental importance to the balance of federal government power in Washington D.C.
Just like for the November 8th Election, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s (LDF) nonpartisan Prepared to Vote lawyers and volunteers will be in Louisiana on December 10th to answer questions and ensure every person is able to cast a ballot. Please search “Prepared to Vote” at www.naacpldf.org to find important information for the Congressional General Election. Voting hours on December 10th are 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST, and as long as a voter is in line before the polls close, they are entitled to cast their ballot. Acceptable forms of photo ID include a driver’s license, a Louisiana Special ID, or other generally recognized picture ID that contains the voter’s name and signature. Even if a voter does not have a photo ID, they are able to vote by correctly filling out an affidavit with identifying information before voting.
LDF is closely monitoring how places (including Louisiana) that were formerly covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are responding to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which immobilized that provision. We encourage you to let us know of any voting changes that are planned or have occurred in your area that you believe may negatively impact your community. Potentially discriminatory voting changes include: changing polling hours and locations; reducing the number of polling places; and purging qualified voters from registration lists. If you wish to report voting irregularities or to seek advice on December 10th, Election Run-Off Day, please contact LDF at email@example.com. Additionally, you can always call the United States Department of Justice, Voting Section by phone, 800–253–3931 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org to report any voting issues.