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Louisiana Voting 101

Alex Woodward on the truths and the myths of what you need at the polling place in Louisiana

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In 2002, the Help America Vote Act set federal standards for voting requirements, including providing a valid driver's license or state-issued ID. Those voter ID requirements vary from state to state. Louisiana is among a handful of states — including Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Dakota and South Dakota — that don't require voters to present a state-issued ID to vote. In 2012, more than 30 states introduced legislation to adopt or strengthen existing voter ID laws — new laws were passed in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia (though Minnesota's measure will require voter approval on Tuesday's ballot).

  More than 20 states (mostly Democratic) have ruled voter ID laws unconstitutional, or don't require voters bring a picture ID to the polls, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Opponents say the laws prevent voters or would-be voters from casting their votes, while supporters say they're necessary to prevent fraud.

  In Louisiana, while showing your ID is preferred, you don't need one to enter the voting booth. A Louisiana voting commissioner or poll worker asks you for a state-issued picture ID. If you don't have one, you must present a copy of a bill, a pay stub or a government-issued document with your name and address.

  Along with one of those documents, you must also sign an affidavit confirming your identity. Affidavits are available at each polling precinct — you don't have to visit your clerk of court, but "it takes a while," says Meg Casper, press secretary for Secretary of State Tom Schedler's office. "It just lengthens your time at the polling place." Once collected, the affidavits and votes are audited to validate your identity.

  Staff from the parish's clerk of court and secretary of state's office train the voting commissioners and poll workers to handle voters at each precinct. "Our law requires that they hold at least one general training course annually and they must also hold a pre-election course before each federal election," Casper says. "Each takes about an hour."

  If you want to be a volunteer poll worker in future elections, you can visit the Orleans Parish Clerk of Court's office (2700 Tulane Ave., room 114) or visit the secretary of state's website (www.sos.la.gov) to print out an application form. To enroll in a training course, you must be a registered voter in Louisiana and at least 17 years old. Voting commissioners may earn up to $250 during an election, performing booth setup and assisting voters.

  Polls in each state require a certain distance between voters and solicitors, including campaign workers. In Texas, state attorney general Greg Abbot has challenged international poll monitors the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for violating a law requiring them to remain 100 feet from voters.

  Casper says no poll monitoring firms have approached Louisiana — where the legal buffer zone is 600 feet. "We haven't received any requests for election observers," she says; though two international firms did perform surveys preceding the elections, she said, they are not monitoring polls. Pollsters would have had to register by Feb. 15 in order to qualify.

  To make the most of your time at the polls, Casper offers a few suggestions: "Anticipate long lines, bring water, know your ballot ahead of time, and having your ID certainly makes the line go faster," she says, adding, "We encourage people to study the ballot before they vote." (You're limited to three minutes inside the booth.) Casper adds that the commissioners at each polling precinct will help you find your polling location if you're at the wrong one.

  The Louisiana secretary of state offers the free mobile app "Geaux Vote" for iPhone and Android devices — enter your name and ZIP code and select from a list of options, including a map to your polling location and sample of the ballot in your area. The secretary of state's website also offers a web-based version of Geaux Vote (https://geauxvotemobile.sos.la.gov).



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