After Louisiana law change, no rush in felon voter signups
Data from the secretary of state's office shows no uptick in the number of felons who registered to vote in February compared to the number who signed up in March, when the law loosened and made an estimated 36,000 more felons eligible to vote.
"It's kind of ironic. For all the talking and all of the chatter surrounding the law and the implementation, it looks very similar to what we saw the month prior," said Tyler Brey, spokesman for Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. "We'll continue to watch it."
Louisiana legislators voted last year to allow people on probation or parole for a felony to register to vote if they haven't been incarcerated for at least five years. The new law took effect March 1. Thousands more people were deemed to meet the definition than some lawmakers said they expected when they debated the measure.
Seventy-eight felons had their voting rights reinstated in February, compared to 68 in March, according to the data. Brey said the secretary of state's office cannot determine which of those who registered in March were able to register because of the law change.
The true test of interest from those newly enfranchised under the law may come in the summer and fall as the Oct. 12 statewide election nears — when the governorship, six other statewide positions and all 144 state legislative seats will be on the ballot. The deadline to register to vote in that election is in September.
Supporters of the felon voting rights restoration fought for years to win passage of the law. Some backers criticized the roll-out of the law change, saying officials have done too little to reach out to the potential voters and the multistep registration process is too complicated.
Under plans devised by elections and corrections officials, felons have to get a form from their probation or parole officers and bring that to their local registrar of voters office to sign up to vote in the next available election. Officials said the process follows requirements in law.
Rep. Patricia Smith, the Baton Rouge Democrat who sponsored the felon voting rights measure, has filed a proposal for the upcoming legislative session to remove the in-person registration requirements.