Louisiana Keeps a Jim Crow-Era Voting Law: Ballots & Boundaries

Six minutes. That’s how much time Louisiana voters will get in the voting booth starting in 2022, under a new law (H.B. 285) that doubles the three minutes they’ve had since the 1890s.

Voters may be allowed additional time if a ballot is particularly lengthy or complex.

Rosalind Cook, who teaches Louisiana politics at Tulane University, said while the limit was enacted around the same time as poll taxes and literacy tests, it has evolved into a nudge for all voters to read about complicated constitutional amendments and be ready to fill out long ballots.

There was no discussion of the law’s history when both legislative chambers unanimously passed the time extension.

Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Kentucky and Indiana have two-minute voter limits. South Carolina voters have a three-minute maximum, and there’s a five-minute cap in New York and Alabama. — Jennifer Kay

LOUISIANA: VETO NO.2

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) today vetoed legislation that sought to block local elections officials from accepting private funding for elections for staffing, equipment, or other expenses.

The bill (H.B. 20) was proposed in response to groups such as the Center for Tech and Civic Life, which receives funding from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The groups offered grants to local government agencies for elections operations in 2020. Edwards vetoed a similar measure last year.

The legislation’s “not necessary to protect the integrity of the election process,” Edwards said. — Jennifer Kay

NEW YORK: ‘ARBITRARY’ POLLING SITES

Rensselaer County, N.Y., has until tomorrow to pick some different early voting locations to use ahead of the June 22 municipal primaries.

Attorney General Letitia James sued the county Board of Elections and its commissioners alleging they broke the law by putting early-voting sites in areas hard to reach from majority-Black neighborhoods. A state Supreme Court judge agreed, calling the polling site choices “arbitrary and capricious.” READ MOREfrom Keshia Clukey.

NEW YORK: WHO’S THAT?

Candidates running for office in New York State would be able to use a nickname on their nomination petition and on the ballot, under legislation (S.1133/A.4136) headed for the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Candidates would have to demonstrate that the names they want voters to see are commonly used to identify themselves, and not intended to mislead those signing their nomination petitions.

The bill stems from an incident in Queens, where two Muslim women running for office were removed from the ballot because the names they used on their petitions didn’t match their voter registrations. — Keshia Clukey

VERMONT: AUTOMATIC ABSENTEE VOTING

A new Vermont law requires all registered voters in the state to receive mail-in ballots for statewide general elections, and Gov. Phil Scott (R) says he wants more.

“I am asking the General Assembly to extend the provisions of this bill to primary elections, local elections and school budget votes when they return to session in January.” — New York Times

CONNECTICUT: MAYBE A LITTLE MORE ABSENTEE VOTING

Connecticut voters may get a chance to decide in 2024 whether to amend the state’s constitution to allow “no excuse” absentee ballots.

Under current law, residents may vote absentee only if they will be away from the community where they vote, they are in the armed services, because they are ill or disabled, or because their religion prevents them from voting in person on Election Day. A resolution (HJR 58) adopted by the legislature has to be approved again in 2023 before it can be placed on the November 2024 ballot.

Meanwhile, with the legislature adjourning tomorrow at midnight, a House-passed bill to let caregivers vote absentee (H.B. 6205) is still alive. — Adrianne Appel

Redistricting

ILLINOIS: REDISTRICTING AND RE-ELECTION

Redistricting might become a big deal in the 2022 Illinois governor’s race now that Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed new legislative and Supreme Court districts into law.

As a first-time candidate for governor in 2018, Pritzker said in writing that he’d veto maps drawn by politicians. In that state, if a redistricting veto is sustained, it triggers an independent commission. Pritzker’s signature on the legislature-drawn plans shut down that option.

“Governor, not only did you sell out, you lied,” said state House Republican Leader Jim Durkin. — Stephen Joyce

GEORGIA: WORRISOME DATE

Republicans tell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that new district maps could be ready just before Nov. 8, which is a crucial date if you happen to be a politician in Georgia.

Addresses as of that day sets official residency for purposes of running for election. “If, for example, a lawmaker is drawn out of their district after Nov. 8 this year, they won’t have time to reposition themselves in time for a run this cycle,” according to “The Jolt” political column. — AJC.com

VIRGINIA: DOUBLE THE LAWYERS

Virginia’s new redistricting commission decided it didn’t have to get bogged down in disputes over whether its legal representation has a partisan slant. It’s putting out two requests for proposals, seeking an attorney or law firm with experience representing Democrats and another with history of representing Republicans. — WRIC-TV

LOUISIANA: WATERY CONCERN

Louisiana lawmakers are getting ready to set minimum standards (H.C.R. 90) for redistricting plans, including figuring out how to work around bayous.

They want to avoid what happened to tiny Pierre Part, which was split into two state House districts in 2001 because the map showed a little blue finger of a bayou running through the unincorporated community. Legislators put Pierre Part back together under one House district a few years later in a redistricting clean-up bill.

Evan Bergeron, general counsel for Fair Districts Louisiana, said it’s worth remembering that “communities of interest” are vulnerable to arbitrary line drawing. — Jennifer Kay

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Ballots & Boundaries is your weekly check-in on what states are doing to change voting laws and reconfigure political boundaries in once-a-decade redistricting.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

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