BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Joe Biden and Donald Trump on Saturday won their parties’ respective Louisiana presidential primaries, an election that was postponed twice because of the coronavirus outbreak and pushed back so many months that it became irrelevant to the selection of the Democratic nominee to challenge Trump in November.
Biden formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination weeks ago.
On Saturday, Trump easily won Louisiana’s GOP primary, where he faced four other Republicans on the state’s ballot seeking the nomination. Biden, who was one of 14 Democrats on Louisiana’s ballot, also coasted to victory.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, voters had extra days of early voting and expanded mail-in balloting options, boosting the number of votes cast ahead of Election Day to historic levels. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office took extra precautions at polling locations as well, saying workers would regularly sanitize voting areas and wipe down voting machines.
Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson told WDSU that some 4,000 applications for mail-in ballots were discovered July 1 at a New Orleans post office. She didn’t know how long they had been sitting there, but Wilson said postal workers delivered them to her office at City Hall that day.
The registrar’s staff worked overtime to put ballots in the mail to voters whose requests were delayed, Wilson said Thursday. Mail-in ballots must have arrived before 4:30 p.m. Friday to be counted in Saturday’s election, which consists of presidential party primaries, state party contests and a few municipal races.
Albert Ruiz, a regional U.S. Postal Service spokesman, said in an email Saturday that ballot applications in New Orleans were held at the post office because of “short-page postage.” The employees involved were brought up to speed on the agency’s policies, he added without detailing what those polices are.
The Louisiana Democratic Party announced Saturday that a lawsuit would be filed in the coming days to prevent the officials from certifying the election until voters’ absentee ballots are properly counted.
Louisiana’s presidential primary was one of the latest in the nation this cycle, after being delayed two times from its original April 4 date. Only Connecticut has a presidential primary later, on Aug. 11, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. It was a rare closed party primary in Louisiana, a state that generally allows all of its candidates regardless of party to run against each other at one time.
Because of the virus, Louisiana lawmakers agreed to allow the election — which also includes municipal competitions in 24 parishes — to run under emergency rules.
The rules gave Ardoin, the Republican elections chief, the ability to change precinct locations, relocate polling places, expand in-person early voting from seven days to 13 days and widen the availability of mail-in absentee ballots to people affected by the virus.
Louisiana’s existing absentee balloting procedure usually is limited to people who are 65 years old or older, members of the military, overseas voters, people who are hospitalized and people who won’t be in their parish for the election.
The emergency plan let people seek an absentee-by-mail ballot for the Saturday primary if they attested on an application that they are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of certain medical conditions; were subject to a quarantine or isolation order; were advised by a health provider to self-quarantine; were experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical confirmation; or were caring for someone who is quarantined or isolated because of the disease.
Ardoin also will use those emergency rules for an Aug. 15 municipal runoff election.