Discussions during the Caddo Parish Commission meeting on Thursday centered on establishing additional early voting sites and the ongoing COVID-19 threat.
Early Voting Sites
The commission currently has permission for one early voting site addition.
Caddo Parish Commissioner Roy Burrell’s suggested agenda addition authorizing the Caddo Parish Registrar of Voters to establish an early voting satellite location at 3015 Greenwood Rd., the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum for early voting in the presidential (general and congressional primary) election beginning Oct. 20 thru Oct. 27, failed because the item was not unanimously approved.
“One of the reasons I’m recommending this location is that it’s centrally located to the city but at the same time, it’s at the western portion of the city also,” Burrell said. “It’s located in an urban center where you have a greater density of population.”
Burrell added the museum location is accessible to those who have public transit needs and convenient to those using the expressways.
Caddo Parish Commissioner John Atkins said that while Burrell made a good argument about the logistical advantages of the museum location, he said it’s close to the current early voting location.
“I’m ok with expanding, but I just want to make sure that if we expand, that we expand in a way that is demographically and politically balanced and has equal representation from both of the major parties in our state,” Atkins said.
Addressing a caller’s question as to whether the commissioner has the authority to add a new early voting site, Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson explained the process saying it goes through the state legislature first and then the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the registrar’s office.
Epperson added the funding for an additional site is already in place.
The actual site location is left up to the Caddo Parish Commission, Epperson said speaking in support of the state museum location.
Epperson mentioned getting three additional early voting sites for 2021.
Caddo Commissioner Stormy Gage-Watts said she is very disappointed that a decision to go forward with the early site was not approved.
“I cannot say enough that we are still in a pandemic and nothing has changed,” Gage-Watts said. “We need to do more to assist the citizens. We are facing some serious challenges. We should have made a decision today, so we know that we have at least one that we know would be up and running.”
The item may appear on the agenda again at some point soon.
In other business, Commissioner Epperson’s agenda addition requesting the parish attorney initiate the appropriate actions to file a lawsuit with the appropriate judicial court, on behalf of the Caddo Parish Commission for an injunction suspending the intent of SB466 Act#302 (enacted by the Louisiana State Legislature) regarding items that can be handled virtually and items that required in-person meetings, was not approved.
Several Commissioners continue to express concerns about the high risk of COVID-19 and made the decision for their safety and the safety of their families, not to attend in-person meetings.
Caddo Parish Commission President Mario Chavez, who has some discretion, chose to hold Thursday’s meeting virtually after the last two meetings failed to establish a quorum.
Caddo Commissioner Steven Jackson’s virtual background highlighted quite a few African American citizens that lost their lives to COVID-19. African-Americans succumb disproportionately to COVID-19.
Additionally, commissioners approved a $272,000 appropriation to purchase masks, provide additional testing for the public to help combat the spread of COVID-19, and to provide “COVID kits” to small businesses which will include non-contact thermometers, large quantities of hand sanitizer, PPE and plexiglass for registers.
Commissioners also approved retaining the services of R. Joseph Naus with Weiner, Weiss, and Madison, as special counsel to provide advice and counsel to the Commission in Chesapeake Energy’s bankruptcy filing.
Chesapeake Energy leases several parish oil and gas interests which makes Caddo Parish a creditor of Chesapeake Energy which entitles the parish to file certain claims with the bankruptcy court.
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