LSU student leader: Louisiana should expand early voting

This Op-Ed was published by The Advocate on October 29, 2018

I lead a civic engagement organization on the LSU campus and have spent most of this semester registering students to vote and educating them on the importance of their vote. I’ve spent hours telling students about options for casting their ballot.

But now, as we approach the election, I struggle to find time to vote. I am still registered in my hometown. Finding several hours in between class, work and club meetings to drive home to vote is daunting. Since skipping class to vote on Election Day is out of the question, my only option is to early vote.

For a college student like me, and for millions of working Louisianans, weekday early voting still doesn’t work. So that leaves the weekend. Actually, in Louisiana, that only leaves Saturday. Louisiana election authorities decided that our citizens only need one day of the weekend to early vote, and they excluded Sundays from early voting. When the options to early vote are so slim for voters, lines at the polls can be long, causing hourslong wait times. In 2016, a friend voted the Saturday of early voting. She waited in line for an hour and a half.

My friend’s story is probably just one of hundreds of thousands of such stories. Too many Louisianans weigh the cost of voting every November. Every person struggles to find time to vote and, sadly, most Louisianans decide it isn’t worth their time.

Not everyone has transportation to their polling place, nor the time to spend hours in line. Not everyone can afford to take off work on Election Day or on early voting days. Many don’t have employers who will give them that time.

Louisiana makes it as hard to vote as possible while still touting its voting access. Early voting is a luxury in Louisiana, but what good does a luxury do if it’s still extraordinarily difficult for citizens to use it?

The argument behind early voting is that it makes it easier for people who work on Election Day to vote. But, if people work on a Tuesday, it’s probable they work Monday through Friday as well. Most states fix this issue by allotting a full weekend for early voting. Many states allot two to four full weekends. Louisiana allotted one Saturday of early voting for the Nov. 6 election.

Not only this, but Louisiana closes early voting a full week before Election Day. Out of the 37 states that allow early voting, Louisiana allows the fewest days and ends it the earliest. The next state, Tennessee, ends its early voting five days before the election. Most states end early voting the Monday before the election. This makes Louisiana the most restrictive of all early voting states.

I will be voting this year. But I will have to make sacrifices, like many people I know. Voting should not be a sacrifice. Too many people have already sacrificed enough so that we can enjoy the right to vote. Voting should be as easy as possible — for all people. If we only allow those with the means to vote to cast ballots, our electorate will never reflect the true population of our state. It will only be a reflection of those who are fortunate enough to have the time or the means to exercise this fundamental American right

About the Author

Zoë Williamson is president of Geaux Vote. She is a senior studying Political Communications at Louisiana State University with a minor in Political Science. Zoë serves as a Governor’s Fellow in Louisiana Government and works in the Governor of Louisiana’s communication office. She previously served as LSU Student Government’s Director of Communications.