Bill to make counting absentees faster, allow teens in voting booths


BATON ROUGE — A House committee advanced a bill Thursday to extend the time to prepare and verify absentee ballots prior to election day.


It also advanced a bill that may soon allow your teenager to accompany you in the voting booth.


Both bills were written by Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria. The bill involving teens would permit children up to 15 years old to enter voting machines. Present law allows parents to bring only a pre-teen child into the booth.


Harris’ other bill would allow parishes, with permission from the secretary of state, to process mail-in and early voting ballots starting three days before election day.


“The changes would provide more time and attention to the verification process and ensure, as we’ve seen in some of these past elections, that the results would be reported timely, hopefully on election night,” Harris said.


Current state law permits parishes to conduct the verification process for absentee ballots the day before an election. The absentee ballots are not counted until election day, but Harris hopes that by preparing the ballots sooner, parishes can certify election results more quickly.


This bill comes in the wake of the November presidential election in which news organizations did not project the winner for three days as some states still counted their absentee ballots.


Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said the bill would not change the final date to accept absentee ballots. They still must be received by 4:30 p.m. the day before an election.


Ardoin said that the extra time would allow the registrars of voters to accurately count mail-in ballots on primary or general-election days without delays.


“What they’re doing is verifying each person that requests a ballot and if that ballot was returned, and they’re verifying the information on the flap,” he said. “But it’s held for counting — no tabulation–until election day.”


Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican from Denham Springs, moved to vote the bill favorably with no objections. It will advance to the House floor.