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Disability advocates sue state over laws they claim limit ballot access to disabled voters

1 week 6 hours 45 minutes ago Wednesday, July 10 2024 Jul 10, 2024 July 10, 2024 1:44 PM July 10, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — A disability rights organization is suing Louisiana to prevent a series of new laws that the group claims violate the Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising disabled voters.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court by Disability Rights Louisiana, takes issue with four separate laws that will make it illegal to help more than one person fill out an absentee ballot. 

The group claims this unfairly targets disabled voters by preventing workers in nursing or group homes from dropping off more than one absentee ballot in the mail on behalf of residents or patients, citing Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act.

“These Acts will be directly impacting absentee voters who have disabilities and do not have availability to immediate family members to help mail their ballots,” the lawsuit says.

On August 1, the first of these two laws—Louisiana Act No. 380 and 317—will take effect, criminalizing assisting more than one person with mailing in an absentee ballot. 

The only exception in the laws authored by Rep. John Carlson (R-Lafayette) and Sen. Caleb Kleinpeter (R-Port Allen), respectively, is if someone is mailing ballots of immediate family members. 

Senator Kleinpeter says the act will work to help protect elderly voters and disabled voters when passing on their ballots.
"The vulnerable voters, the elderly are sometimes prayed upon, and said to, 'If you not going to vote this way, then we're not going to help you out or we're going to do this to you'," Kleinpeter said. "We don't want that."

On July 1, 2025, Louisiana Act No. 712 and 302 authored by Rep. Polly Thomas (R-Metarie) and Kleinpeter, respectively, will take effect and make it illegal to serve as a witness for more than one absentee ballot.

The Voting Rights Act gives people with disabilities the right to assistance in voting by anyone they trust,” Disability Rights Louisiana’s attorney Andrew Bizer said. “These new laws make that nearly impossible for people living in nursing or group homes. These laws are undemocratic and must be stopped.”

Bizer also says the laws will impede voters with disabilities from exercising their voting rights.
"Nursing homes and group homes will send out memos to their employees saying it is a crime if you help more than one person just deliver their ballot to the post office just put it in the mailbox. It is very clear what will happen if these laws are left unchallenged."

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