March 13, 2020

Attention Louisiana Voters: We Deserve a Just Response to Coronavirus

According to the Louisiana state government, coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions should extend to the point of suspending elections, which is essentially suspending the constitution. Clearly it is in everyone’s best interest to be overly cautious when it matters most (before the pandemic reaches critical mass), so it is difficult to fault any particular closures or postponements. However, in the spirit of the Louisiana government’s state of emergency, they should take the following additional steps:

  1. Create a blanket exception for ALL voters to vote-by-mail, as the state of Oregon has been doing for 20 years, as well as Washington, Colorado, Hawaii. Seventeen other states allow for some form of comprehensive voting by mail. This would expand upon the absentee ballot rules.
  2. More importantly, the government should take key steps to both stop the spread of the virus and allow people to support their families.The government should immediately release all people held in jail…
    1. Due to a misdemeanor (convicted or not)
    2. Awaiting trial on low-level felonies,
    3. On a technical violation of probation or parole.
  3. Grant 90 days of good time to all incarcerated people convicted of a crime. Every jurisdiction has an emergency release mechanism, due to natural disasters or overcrowding. In this situation, overcrowding (and normal crowding) increases the risk of in a pandemic. Jails and prisons are not equipped to handle a mass of patients, and people are not free to seek health services anywhere else. People who are within 90 days of their release should not be seen as a “risk,” when they would be out shortly without these circumstances. This will also allow for some families to better handle childcare challenges when schools get cancelled and parents still need to go to work.
  4. Housing authorities should halt all evictions under the current state of emergency. Other government entities should be looking closely at the role they can play in either making the pandemic worse, or supporting the effort to move past it. Creating housing insecurity, especially for families with young children, is both inhumane and irresponsible at this juncture.

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