Even under this standard, Defendants’ evidence is woefully inadequate. First, they offer not a scintilla of evidence of fraud associated with voting by mail in Louisiana. Strikingly absent is even a hint of fraud in the July and August primaries, where expanded mail voting was available to voters with COVID-19 comorbidities, caretakers, and others.
In fact, the Louisiana Commissioner of Elections, Sherri Wharton Hadskey (“Commissioner Hadskey” or “Hadskey”), testified that she was unaware of any incidents of voter fraud among mail voters in the July and August elections. With utterly no evidence of voter fraud in Louisiana, the Defendants bolster their voter fraud justification with two exhibits: a 2012 Grand Jury Report from Miami-Dade County, Florida that identified vulnerabilities in Florida’s absentee by mail voting process and a 2019 Order from the North Carolina Board of Elections ordering a new election in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District because the 2018 general election there was so “corrupted by fraud, improprieties, and irregularities so pervasive that its results are tainted. . .”
Defendants glaringly fail to acknowledge that, according to Secretary Ardoin, Louisiana “absolutely, without a doubt” ranks among the top five states for election security and election integrity. Asked about the prevalence of voter fraud in the state, Ardoin stated that “it has not been widespread” and that he believes it to be “a rare occurrence.” When it has occurred, he explained, it has been in connection with “local races, small races.” Ardoin demurred when asked if he knew the number of voter fraud prosecutions that have proceeded to trial in Louisiana, but stated that such trials are “very, very, very rare.” Likewise, former Secretary of State Tom Schedler in 2017 issued a statement that “Louisiana did not have any widespread irregularities or allegations of fraud” during the 2016 presidential election. Also, as Plaintiffs note, the database on voter fraud maintained by the Heritage Foundation contains only four known instances of voter fraud in Louisiana, none of which is related to absentee by mail voting and only one of which occurred after 2005.
Puzzling and left unexplained by the Defendants is why their concern over voter fraud presented no obstacle to the passage and implementation of the Emergency Election Plan for the July and August elections, which broadened the availability of mail ballots for COVID-19 reasons. Apparently Secretary Ardoin, the Louisiana legislature, and Governor Edwards were satisfied that expanding the availability of absentee by mail voting presented no grave threat when they approved the Plan on April 27, 2020, fewer than five months ago.
The Court is not persuaded by Defendants’ conclusory assertion that their interest in preventing voter fraud – which Defendant Secretary Ardoin testified only four months ago is “a rare occurrence” – is weighty enough to justify their roll back of COVID-19-specific allowances for mail voting.