Amid ongoing legal battles over attempts to overturn voter suppression efforts in Louisiana, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office shut down the state’s voter registration portal, Geauxvote.com, on National Voter Registration Day. The explanation given is that the portal needs to undergo “scheduled maintenance” that is “required.”
It is unclear when the site was shut down for maintenance. National Voter Registration Day is a movement to encourage people to register to vote on the fourth Tuesday of September during election years.
But unregistered voters and those seeking to update addresses or request absentee ballots in time for the Nov. 3 election are currently unable to access the portal until Wednesday, Sept. 23 at midnight, according to a statement on the otherwise inaccessible website.
Ardoin’s apparent decision to shut down the website raises concerns about ongoing efforts to suppress voter turnout during a heated election season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ardoin, a Republican, has sparred with Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards over absentee voting — both in federal court and in the court of public opinion. A federal judge in Baton Rouge recently overturned efforts by Ardoin and GOP lawmakers to roll back previously expanded absentee voting in Louisiana. The judge’s ruling, if it stands, would allow Louisiana voters to cast absentee ballots if they are concerned about COVID-related health risks associated with voting in-person. The ruling effectively reinstates the absentee voting rules that applied to the statewide primaries held in July and August, which came off without a whiff of “voter fraud.”
The website’s shutdown was first brought to Gambit’s attention by WDSU reporter Christina Watkins, who posted a screenshot of the voter portal on Tuesday night.
Gambit has not received responses to immediate requests from Edwards’ or Ardoin’s offices for comments. Rep. Royce Duplessis, a New Orleans Democrat and vice chair of the House and Governmental Affairs Committee, condemned the timing of the site’s “maintenance” shutdown. He called it “an absolute disgrace.”