October 21, 2020

Helena Moreno

Council Drops Temporary Injunction Against Secretary of State After He Concedes to Misinterpretation of Election Code

Council Drops Temporary Injunction Against Secretary of State After He Concedes to Misinterpretation of Election Code

NEW ORLEANS - Today, the New Orleans City Council, represented by their Executive Counsel Adams Swensek, dropped a temporary injunction against the Secretary of State after his court filings admitted he misinterpreted the law regarding allowable locations to drop off absentee ballots. The Council will continue to pursue a request for a declaratory judgment against the Secretary to make perfectly clear moving forward what is allowable under the election code.


"What we thought was going to be an impactful and common sense move to have locations to drop off absentee ballots around the city has turned into a bizarre and head-scratching episode with the Secretary of State. Fortunately, on behalf of voters we've achieved a win today with an admission that absentee ballots can be delivered to locations other than just the Registrar's Office. The Council will not be deterred when it comes to fighting for voter accessibility, and we won't back down when policies that restrict ballot access for our people are being enacted," said Council Vice President Helena Moreno.


"This is a win for the voters of our City. Now let's all do our part in exercising that sacred right and make our voices heard at the ballot box." Said Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer.


"Access to voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, and I am glad that we as the New Orleans City Council have helped increase access to this fundamental right during this very important election. I encourage all residents to realize the power of their vote and ensure that you exercise your right to be heard" said Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen.


"This is a great day for Democracy.  This is not about Republican or Democrat, it is about being an American," said Councilmember Jay H. Banks. "The right to vote is fundamental to essence of America and making sure that there are not no obstacles or impediments to voting but that voting is as easy as it can possibly be is what all of us should fight for." 


"We hoped to avoid legal action but as representatives of the people of this City we had to take swift and appropriate action to ensure no person's right to vote was suppressed. We now have agreement that will allow the registrar to serve more locations and more. New Orleanians. The record turnouts we've already begun to see for early voting shows that the will of the people to be heard is strong. We remain committed to standing up for that right until everyone who wants to is able to be heard." said Councilmember-At-Large Jason Williams


The dispute stemmed after the Council and Registrar began planning for secure staffed locations around the city to drop off ballots curbside. The Secretary sternly informed the Council that according to state law, absentee ballots shall only be hand-delivered to the Registrar's Office and nowhere else. The Council argued that state law does not include the word "office" and took the Secretary to court last week where the Council was granted a temporary injunction, therefore, allowing for drop off locations to occur around the city. In a strange turn of events, the Registrar, who had indicated her strong support for multiple curbside locations, now had concluded that she could no longer staff this measure.


Nevertheless, the Secretary in his filings to the court this week supported an argument by the Council that voters have been able to drop off absentee ballots to early voting locations in the past, therefore, proving that locations other than the Registrar's Office have always been allowable. He then further admitted that his assertion that absentee ballots can only be dropped off at a registrar office was incorrect by stating that the Registrar can also accept absentee ballots at early voting locations and nursing homes: "Because those sites are places at which the Registrar conducts official operations during the election, she is deemed to be present in her official capacity for the acceptance of absentee ballots pursuant to La R.S. 18:1308 (B)." This completely contradicts his position he sent in writing to the Council on Oct 8th and reasserted on Oct 12th. Still, the Council is satisfied that the Secretary's reading of the law is now at least partially interpreted correctly. Read the October 8th letter here.


 Where there is still dispute is that the Secretary believes that absentee ballots can only be hand-delivered to a location other than a registrar's office:

  • If it's during early voting.
  • Only at early voting locations and nursing homes.
  • This is not stated in state law.
  • If the "registrar is deemed to be present in her capacity" by setting up multiple locations she deems fit around the city, then she should be allowed to do so at any time up until the day before Election Day.


This is where the Council is asking the court to make perfectly clear in a declaratory judgment.





Media Contact:

Andrew Tuozzolo

Chief of Staff

Office of Councilmember-at-Large Helena Moreno 

(504) 281-9882

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