Ida’s devastation prompts Ardoin to request election delay

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin on Tuesday asked Gov. John Bel Edwards to delay the October statewide election by five weeks because of Hurricane Ida’s damage to polling locations, displacement of elections workers and widespread destruction across southeastern parishes.

Ardoin, a Republican, urged Edwards to push the Oct. 9 election back to the Nov. 13 date that was scheduled for runoff competitions. The elections official is recommending using the November date for the primary election with a Dec. 11 runoff date as needed.

Ida’s devastation “would make holding the election on its original dates virtually impossible without impairing the integrity of the election,” Ardoin says in a statement.

Edwards said Tuesday that he hasn’t determined whether he’ll agree to the postponement.

“I understand I don’t have much time to make that decision,” he says, adding he’d make the determination quickly.

The October ballot has a statewide proposal to overhaul Louisiana’s income tax structure, along with several special elections to fill vacant legislative seats and municipal elections in New Orleans, including the mayor’s race. Early voting is scheduled to begin Sept. 25.

But with widespread power outages in some parishes—and utility officials estimating it could still be weeks before those areas are restored—that could cause problems for holding elections. Meanwhile, some workers who staff the polling locations have been displaced by Ida’s destruction. Postal service for absentee ballots is disrupted in some areas. Of the 280 polling locations assessed so far, the secretary of state’s office says 88 are damaged.

Louisiana’s last hurricane-related election delay was in 2008 after Hurricane Ike, according to the secretary of state’s office. For that storm, elections in Cameron and Terrebonne parishes were pushed back several weeks.

Dawn Starns McVea, who leads the Louisiana chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, says the organization has a robust get-out-the-vote effort planned and doesn’t want that work to be wasted if the election isn’t in October. NFIB supports the tax overhaul that will be on the ballot. 

“These amendments are important to us and we will work with whatever date is decided,” she says, referring to the choice between October and November. “We just need a decision to be made now and not continue to leave it hanging as an unknown.”