Legislation regarding the procedure for casting provisional ballots passed the House on Monday, even after concerns were raised by some lawmakers as to what the law would do.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Harlan Breaux, R-Holiday Island, struggled to answer several questions posed by his colleagues. At one point, he attempted to leave the well of the House floor while being pressed for more details.
Breaux was running Senate Bill 159, which is sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville. The bill would eliminate the portion of state law that requires poll workers to remove the stubs from provisional ballots and to keep those stubs in a separate box.
Provisional ballots are cast when poll workers challenge a voter's eligibility, and the voter signs an affidavit that he is legally registered to vote. Election officials later check the validity of the voter's claim.
Ballinger described the bill as "cleanup" legislation intended to synchronize the law with more modern voting machines being used across the state. Those machines don't use the same type of ballots with a perforated stub.
When asked on the House floor why the requirement was being removed, Breaux repeatedly read the text of the bill. He said the bill was part of the secretary of state's legislative package.
A spokesman for Secretary of State John Thurston's office could not be reached Monday afternoon.
Asked by a reporter after the House session why he was handling the bill, Breaux said, "I'm not real sure on that, other than to keep it straighter."
He added that the bill had to do with "auditing" elections.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 83-7. It had passed the Senate unanimously. Several members of both parties voted against the bill in the House.
Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, said she was concerned that the bill would affect the way that votes are verified during recounts. Her questions to Breaux were never answered.
"If it's just procedural, I think we need to explain it better," Flowers said.
Breaux, who is a first-term lawmaker, replaced Ballinger as the representative for House District 97. Ballinger was elected to the state Senate last year.
SB159, having passed both chambers, now heads to the governor for his action.
A Section on 02/12/2019