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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for Louisiana Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: August 20, 2020
Published: August 20, 2020

This is part of the Brennan Center’s Toolkits for Activists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Political Context  |  What’s in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Administering an election under pandemic conditions requires undertaking steps to keep voting accessible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the problems Covid-19 poses, what preparedness measures Louisiana has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some political context for your advocacy.

Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local officials have a lot of responsibility over elections. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state officials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we highlight some examples of changes that local elections officials can also make with this symbol:🔸

Political Context

Below is a list of the relevant officials and information about the legislative session.

Governor: John Bel Edwards (D)  

Secretary of State: Kyle Ardoin (R)

Legislature: House (R) Senate (R)

Legislative Session: The legislature last adjourned on June 30, 2020. Either the legislature or the governor can call a special legislative session.

Local Elections Officials: In Louisiana, a number of parish officials share responsibilities for administering elections. You can look up individual parish officials here.

What Louisiana Has and What’s Needed

Three priorities. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elections systems for success during a pandemic: registration, mail voting, and in-person voting.


Covid-19 may disrupt the traditional ways Americans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or registering at government agencies. In the crucial weeks before the registration deadline, postal service disruptions may lead many registration forms to arrive at election offices after the deadline.

Preparatory Measures Louisiana Already Has Taken:

  • Online voter registration

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend online and mail voter registration deadlines based on conditions in the state
  • Voter registration on Election Day

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previous elections. Allowing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Election Day and decreases the exposure risk to Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Louisiana Already Has Taken:

  • Online tool for requesting an absentee ballot 
  • No ID requirement to vote by mail

Changes Still Needed:

  • Allow all voters to vote by mail without an excuse
  • Eliminate notary or witness requirement for return of mail ballot
  • Provide pre-paid postage for voting by mail
  • Accept late-arriving ballots postmarked by Election Day
  • Provide post-election notice and cure opportunity for defects on absentee-ballot envelope, including signature mismatch or missing signatures
  • Allow the mailing of absentee-ballot applications to all voters who have not yet applied

In-Person Voting

Even with expanded mail voting opportunity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disenfranchise voters without Internet and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accordance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Louisiana Already Has Taken:

  • In-person early voting

Changes Still Needed:

  • Ensure sufficient polling places are open and resourced on Election Day🔸
  • Open more in-person early voting locations🔸
  • Take proper public health precautions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold training sessions for polling-place workers well in advance of Election Day, so that election officials can better anticipate problems with staffing and logistics🔸
  • Increase access to curbside voting at polling locations

Advocacy Focus: Protecting Polling Places

No matter how prepared Louisiana is as a matter of policy, elections officials and advocates must stay vigilant about ensuring safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for everyone all the way through Election Day. Here are some important things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in Louisiana and what rules govern the process:

  • The governing authority of each parish is responsible for establishing polling places.🔸
  • After July 22, 2020 (the opening of the qualifying period for candidates), polling places can only be changed in the case of an emergency or if private property used for a polling place becomes unavailable through no fault of the parish governing authority.🔸
  • Upon recommendation of the county clerk, the Secretary of State may move polling places in case of an emergency. The governing authority of a parish may do the same.🔸
  • If, during a state of emergency, the Secretary of State believes an emergency will impair the conduct of an election, then the Secretary of State will develop a plan to be voted on by committees in both chambers of the legislature and approved by the governor before implementation.
  • State law allows for early voting from 14 days before the election day until 7 days before the election day.

Key Dates for Louisiana Elections

  • July 11, 2020: Presidential Preference and Municipal Primary Election Day
  • October 5, 2020: Deadline to register by mail or in person for the November 3 Election
  • October 13, 2020: Deadline to register online for the November 3 Election
  • October 20 – 27, 2020: Early Voting period for Open Primary/Presidential/Congressional Election
  • November 3, 2020: Open Primary/Presidential/Congressional Election Day
  • November 4, 2020: Deadline to register by mail or in person for the December 5 Election
  • November 14, 2020: Deadline to register online for the December 5 Election
  • November 20 – 28, 2020: Early voting period for Open General/Congressional Election
  • December 5, 2020: Open General/Congressional Election Day