As Southeast Louisiana continues to dig out from Hurricane Ida, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin is asking Gov. John Bel Edwads to delay Louisiana’s fall elections. The storm affected 42% of state voters, and Ardoin wants the Oct. 9 primary elections moved to Nov. 13 with the general election then moved to Dec. 11. While Edwards has not indicated whether he will approve the request, Ardoin laid out the reasons for why the delay is necessary. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:
Ardoin said he spoke to local registrars and clerks of court – including those in the parishes with the most damage as well as Orleans Parish, which will have the biggest election filling most of the city’s high level posts, including mayor, sheriff, assessor, clerk for criminal courts and city council members. “They were telling us the problems they were encountering and the damage they saw,” Ardoin said, and what it would take to get the election going in time. Legal deadlines are looming. The deadline for in-person registration is Wednesday. For nursing home residents the deadline is Thursday. And by Friday election commissioners across the state have to be chosen, though many local officials don’t where all their commissioners are. In 11 days, Ardoin’s office has to publish the locations of the polling places.
The Oct. 9 ballot contains two constitutional amendments, including a harmful plan to cut income-tax rates and the corporate franchise tax in exchange for eliminating a pair of longstanding tax deductions. While well-intentioned, Amendment 2 does nothing to address the unfairness of Louisiana’s tax code – where the poor pay a larger percentage of their income in taxes than the rich – and would make it harder to raise adequate revenue to support public services. LBP’s full explainer on the proposed tax swap is forthcoming.
Louisiana halts evictions
In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ida, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an emergency order on Monday postponing all legal deadlines until Sept. 24, including blocking residential evictions. While the order does not mention evictions specifically, it does prevent landlords from evicting tenants. Matt Sledge of Nola.com has the story.
“Allowing evictions to continue in the aftermath of a devastating storm, and in the middle of the worst (coronavirus) surge the state has seen, would have been unconscionable,” said Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy and communications for the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. “We know that so many people used their last money to pay for gas and food.” Ciardullo’s nonprofit wants the governor to go further. It argues he should keep a state eviction moratorium in place until the “vast majority” of federal rental assistance money has been distributed.
Thousands of Louisiana residents are confused and frustrated by FEMA’s response to Hurricane Ida. While the federal agency has provided $175 million in aid to nearly 160,000 state households, some residents are still falling through the cracks. The Advocate’s Blake Paterson tells the story of Shequita Jackson of LaPlace, whose apartment was mere blocks away from where President Joe Biden visited last week.
With few other options, Jackson spends hours each day listening to hold music on FEMA’s helpline. On Tuesday morning, the wait time was 82 minutes. She’s been told countless times to go to a shelter, but with COVID-19 running amok, she’s fearful for her health. The 36-year-old has high blood pressure and her son has asthma, putting them both at a higher risk of complications from the deadly virus. What she needs is a hotel room or cash assistance for short-term housing, but online, FEMA says her application is pending a property inspection. That’s confusing for Jackson, who said her sister, the owner of the apartment, already got FEMA help. “I feel like I’m speaking another language when I tell them I’m homeless,” she said. “I feel so degraded that I have to keep calling and begging FEMA for help.”
Biden seeking additional relief funds
President Joe Biden asked Congress on Tuesday for $24 billion in disaster relief spending for Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters. The request urges the aid to be included in a short-term funding bill that lawmakers will need to pass to avoid a looming government shutdown at the end of September. The AP’s Josh Boak reports:
[Shalanda] Young’s blog post notes that more than $14 billion was needed to address natural disasters before Ida ravaged Louisiana, Mississippi and communities along the eastern seaboard as it traveled north. She estimates that another $10 billion will be needed to specifically address Ida, including funds for community development block grants, emergency highway relief and Small Business Administration disaster loans, among other programs. The sum for Ida-related expenses is rough as much of the damage is still being assessed.
Number of the Day
11% – The percentage point gap between white and Black voter turnout in Louisiana since 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Southern states with a history of racial discrimination in voting rights were no longer required to get preclearance from the Justice Department for changes to state voting laws. (Source: Louisiana Illuminator via the Brennan Center for Justice)