By William Patrick, The Center Square
Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin touted the state’s high ranking in a recent election integrity report published by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The 2021 Election Integrity Scorecard report measured all 50 states and the District of Columbia according to 12 criteria, including voter ID implementation, absentee ballot management, vote counting practices and verification of citizenship. Louisiana ranked seventh overall.
“Louisiana is among the nation’s leaders when it comes to election integrity due to our agency’s sound procedures and best practices, along with our team of dedicated civil servants who work incredibly hard to ensure our elections run smoothly,” Ardoin said in a statement. “While we are proud to be named in the top 10, our goal is perfection, so we will continue working to improve our system.”
Researchers gave the state high marks for absentee ballot management, vote harvesting restrictions and vote counting practices. The lowest marks pertained to election litigation procedures, verification of citizenship and restrictions on private funding of election officials and government agencies.
Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee ranked highest on the list, while the District of Columbia, Nevada and California were last on the 2021 scorecard.
Ardoin, Louisiana’s top election official, described his approach to elections as making it “easy to vote, but hard to cheat.”
The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, has prioritized voting and election issues for years. The group maintains an Election Fraud Database and claims “election fraud occurs all too frequently,” though many election observers claim there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The divide was exacerbated after the 2020 presidential election amid nationwide claims and counterclaims of fraud, irregularities and conspiracy theories. Louisiana lawmakers responded by passing House Bill 704 and Senate Bill 220 during the 2021 regular legislative session.
The bills were aimed at strengthening Election Day poll watching and voter roll accuracy by authorizing the Legislative Auditor to conduct post-election audits. Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed both measures.
HB 704 “unnecessarily politicizes the election process,” Edwards said, adding that SB 220 presented separation of powers issues.
Edwards, however, signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, authorizing the Louisiana Voting System Commission to use updated requirements for acquiring new voting machines.
The 13-member commission, chaired by Ardoin, is scheduled to release its final recommendations Jan. 31, though a Friday meeting at the Capitol was canceled because the COVID-19 omicron variant surge.