LACAG: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON ELECTION SECURITY AND CENSORSHIP IN LOUISIANA
Guest post by Christopher Alexander
I finally had a chance to closely read a recent article by Michael Lunsford, President of Citizens for a New Louisiana, titled “Don’t Be Fooled, Louisiana’s Elections Aren’t Broken.” The article warrants a clear response due to its misrepresentation of both law and fact regarding critical issues of election integrity in Louisiana. I take time to respond to the article only because the falsehoods contained in it risk misleading Louisiana voters on the most important issue of our day: the integrity and security of our vote. And “misinformation”, to borrow a term popularized by the Left and used by our Secretary of State to describe any opinion that contradicts his narrative, must be responded to.
Because it would require more space than I have here to respond to all the distortions contained in the article, I will address here only three that involve issues of fundamental importance: 1) The actual recommendation made by the Louisiana Voting System Commission (LVSC) in June 2022 regarding Louisiana’s new election system; 2) The law governing the duties of Secretary Ardoin with regard to voter registration and maintenance; and 3) Ardoin’s potential involvement in an illegal state and federal censorship of political speech in Louisiana.
On the first issue, the article states that the LVSC, of which the author is an appointed member, “and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin himself, clearly wanted hand-marked paper ballots. We know this because that is exactly what we approved. That system also includes a BMD (Ballot Marking Device) option for the elderly, disabled, and curious.” (Emphasis mine). This is misleading at best and reflects a curious memory lapse by somebody who was, to use the author’s words “present and attentive during the entire process.”
Although there was no shortage of discussion by the LVSC about recommending restrictions on the use of BMDs, and even though the enabling legislation passed in 2021 authorized the LVSC to recommend such restrictions, talk is cheap. The LVSC recommendation included no such qualifying language. The recommendation the LVSC passed was “hand-marked paper ballots and ballot marking devices.” Based upon its own recorded deliberations before the vote, the LVSC knew that the practical effect of its recommendation would give Ardoin complete discretion to implement either hand-marked paper ballots or BMDs as the primary voting method in Louisiana. The LVSC’s recommendation neither imposed on Ardoin any incentive to implement a secure, software-independent, serialized, and auditable paper ballot system, nor any disincentive to implement universal BMDs.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a member of the LVSC, candidly stated as much before the vote when she said Louisiana could end up with “a fully hand-marked system, or a fully BMD system,” and there is nothing in the LVSC’s recommendation that prevents either one. Ardoin, who is also a member, and Chairman, of the LVSC, reminded other members before the vote that the recommendation at issue would not commit him to any specific “methodology”, and that he didn’t know “what my office is going to end up coming up with.”
The LVSC surely knew this before it cast its vote, yet the author of the article himself voted for this recommendation, after listening to a multitude of Louisiana citizens express their opposition to BMDs as Louisiana’s primary voting method, and after hearing Dr. Haldeman’s ominous testimony that:
Universal use of BMDs is a major security challenge because if they are hacked, they can misprint or alter votes. They are a large, attractive, target to hackers, making attacks more likely…BMDs can be hacked, without being detected.” (Emphasis mine).
Other national experts also testified about the serious vulnerabilities of BMDs. Additionally, although they did not testify before the LVSC, Andrew Appel from Princeton, Richard DeMillo from Georgia Tech, and Phillip Stark from UC Berkeley, published a national report in 2020 titled Ballot-Marking Devices (BMDs) Cannot Assure the Will of the Voters. In a damning report that should have been required reading for the LVSC, the authors conclude that all BMDs are software dependent, and therefore can be “mis-programmed or hacked…to alter election outcomes undetectably.” For this reason, “A BMD generated paper trail is not a reliable record of the vote expressed by the voter.” The authors make the same conclusions about Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) used in conjunction with Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines: no machine based voting system is reliable, because they can all be hacked.
The article at issue here is correct in its assessment of Dr. Haldeman’s recommendation, including the limited use of BMDs for citizens who cannot mark a paper ballot due to a disability (as well as up to 5% more to ensure the privacy of the disabled vote). The problem is that the author failed to urge the LVSC to adopt Haldeman’s recommendation. The LVSC’s vote, with the author’s support, contains no language to discourage Ardoin from attempting, for the third time, to spend $100 million in taxpayer money on vulnerable voting machines to the enrichment of the vendor, and to the detriment of hardworking, taxpaying citizens of Louisiana. (For information about Ardoin’s dubious history with one particular vendor, about which the article expresses no concern, go here.)
The article’s effort to euphemize the Commission’s actual recommendation simply does not fly.
Regarding Louisiana’s notoriously dirty voter rolls, the article quotes with disapproval this writer’s recommendation that Ardoin use the “weight of his office” to pressure the state’s registrars to do their duty and clean Louisiana’s rolls. The article contends that Ardoin, Louisiana’s chief elections officer, has no part to play here. Rather, this is the sole duty of the registrar of voter in each Parish. This is false.
While the article is correct that Ardoin has no enforcement authority over the registrars (a suggestion I never made) Louisiana Revised Statute 18:18 imposes on him an express duty to administer the laws relating to voter registration, to direct and assist the registrars of voters on voter registration matters, to prescribe binding rules on the registrars, and to obtain and compile data and statistics related to voter registration. The author’s assertion that Ardoin is impotent on this issue is at odds with Louisiana law. Ardoin has legal authority not only to act, but to direct the registrars to act. It is imperative that he do so, particularly in light of information revealed in the LaToya Cantrell recall lawsuit that tens of thousands of people who are either dead or have moved were found on the active voter rolls in Orleans Parish. There can be little doubt that similar problems exist in other parishes, some of which have already been uncovered by citizen canvassers.
Ardoin’s supervisory authority over voter registration matters is why he was not dismissed from the Cantrell lawsuit in which a central allegation is that he failed “to supervise” the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters in properly purging the voter rolls. His supervisory authority has been further confirmed now that the Orleans parish ROV has been dismissed from the Cantrell suit, while Ardoin was not. And a Consent Judgment is being worked out between the recall organizers and Ardoin’s office requiring him to remove thousands of people from the rolls, something election integrity advocates have repeatedly asked him to direct and supervise, but which the article falsely suggests he has no authority to do.
Although the article offers several excuses for Ardoin’s persistent refusal to direct the cleaning of Louisiana’s voter rolls, none of them has merit. Ardoin’s failure to act on this important issue is not the legislature’s responsibility (although the legislature does need to move on legislation that will further strengthen election integrity in Louisiana). It is not the registrars’ responsibility, although they must play their part. It is not the State Board of Election Supervisors’ responsibility. And it is not the responsibility of election integrity advocates whom the article unfairly demeans. It is Ardoin’s responsibility.
Finally, the issue of censorship of constitutionally protected political speech. The article correctly notes that it has now been established beyond dispute that the federal government is systematically colluding with big social media firms such as Facebook, Google, and YouTube, to unconstitutionally censor speech on a wide range of issues. The article then falsely asserts that this writer has implicated Ardoin in this censorship enterprise as a matter of “absolute proof.” This is false. What I have suggested is that recent events and revelations raise reasonable concern that Ardoin is using the power of his office to censor the speech of Louisiana citizens on election matters, and the issue warrants further investigation.
Roby Dyer, President of the Louisiana Federation of Republican Women (LFRW) issued a directive binding on every LFRW member group in Louisiana prohibiting Louisiana Citizens for Election Integrity (LACEI) from presenting information on the problems in our election system at any of its affiliated chapters. I have suggested that Dyer’s directive, which clearly benefits Ardoin in an election year, was neither conceived nor written by her. I have suggested that she was not the prime mover behind the directive, and that if it turns out that Ardoin is behind it – if he is using the power of his office to censor protected speech- it will be a significant political and legal problem for him. The article not only mischaracterizes my position on this issue, it disregards even the possibility that our sitting Secretary of State may be influencing the suppression of constitutionally protected speech in Louisiana.
The author may be convinced that all is on the up and up, but concerned Louisiana citizens across the State should not be. Ardoin served as president-elect and president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). On February 8, 2023 Congresswoman Luna (R-FL) exposed before the House Oversight Committee how our government at all levels has been weaponized against American citizens. Luna effectively documented the conspiracy between federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and state election officials to outsource illegal censorship to third parties, including social media companies, the Center for Internet Security (CIS), NASS, and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED).
There is cause for real concern whether NASS and NASED are receiving federal grants from CISA and EAC for a “censorship enterprise” as exposed in the Missouri/Louisiana et. al v. Biden lawsuit and the Twitter Files. Evidence to date suggests that officers and members of NASS have developed and implemented a “disinformation” campaign under the Orwellian pretext that they are the only “trusted source” for election information. It should alarm every Louisiana citizen that secretaries of state around the Country are using EAC grants to hire “social media monitoring specialists” to surveil, suppress, and silence the speech of citizens who disagree with their government approved narratives regarding election integrity. This state-sponsored censorship of political speech is frightening, especially since it is being orchestrated by senior state election officials.
It is also important to know that the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office initiated membership into the Center for Internet Security Election Information Sharing and Analysis Center (CIS EI ISAC). CIS EI ISAC is a federally funded, New York based 501c3 Corporation whose members are encouraged to file complaints, or “tickets” against private citizens for speech considered “misinformation,” “malinformation,” or “disinformation.” Social media companies then regulate and censor this speech through the Election Integrity Partnership (EIP). (To fully understand the scope and depth of this sinister, collusive, censorship enterprise between state and private actors I recommend The Long Fuse: Misinformation and the 2020 Election). Ardoin has also been a “valuable member” of the CISA Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (EI-GCC).
In a recorded national press brief in 2020 with other Secretaries of State, Ardoin surely sounded like somebody who is more familiar with The Long Fuse than he is with the free speech clause of the First Amendment: “Cyber security is still the main issue that we face, especially one that we can’t prevent but one that we work very hard as election officials to prevent and to deal with and that’s misinformation and disinformation and that’s when our partnerships with our federal partners and our local partners to get the word out as to where you get trusted information and how you can attack some of these misinformation and disinformation campaigns that are attempting to disengage voters from the process because they’re suspect of the process. So we need to just continue our efforts we are doing. I’m proud of what NASS has done and my colleagues from around the country…” (Emphasis mine).
The author of the article may disagree, but cybersecurity has nothing to do with the lawful expression of constitutionally protected speech by Louisiana citizens. And it is not the job of the Louisiana Secretary of State to police that speech, or to participate in any effort to do so. It is, in fact, illegal. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said that government suppression of free speech is “the most dangerous of all subversions, the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.”
It is also not Ardoin’s job to increase the number of citizens who vote. While we all want our citizens to participate in the electoral process, Ardoin’s principal responsibility is to secure the integrity of our vote, whether it be for the benefit of three voters or three million.
It is reasonable to expect a direct answer from Ardoin whether he, acting in concert with certain entities to which he is directly connected, is engaged in action to influence the suppression of constitutionally protected speech. Ardoin’s potential involvement in what appears to be a broad, systematic, and coordinated effort to crush disfavored opinions is something the citizens of Louisiana have every right to know. Ardoin’s leadership role in NASS and EI-GCC, and his stated commitment to “attack some of these misinformation and disinformation campaigns” in conjunction with his “federal and local partners” demand that Ardoin squarely address these issues publicly and provide real answers. To date, he has not felt inclined to do so. One can hope that he will be invited at some point to provide those answers before one or more Congressional oversight Committees currently investigating these matters.
Despite all the above, the article suggests there is “nothing to see” in any of this, nothing to investigate, nothing to be concerned about, nothing that should raise questions about whether Ardoin is truly acting in the best interest of Louisiana citizens on matters of fundamental importance. Let’s just move along and find some sand in which to bury our heads. Well, thanks but no thanks. The security of our vote, and the freedom of our voice, were won at too bloody a cost.
On all these issues- what parameters the LVSC actually recommended for Ardoin to follow in selecting our new voting system, whether that system will secure our vote, what legal duties the Secretary of State has regarding voter registration and the cleaning of our voter rolls, and what involvement Ardoin has in the ongoing, systematic effort by our government to suppress our speech- the article falls short of the mark. Perhaps the words of James Schlesinger are instructive: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” We all have a duty to diligently seek the truth, especially on issues of paramount importance to the survival of this Republic. Fifty- Six brave American patriots pledged, and indeed sacrificed, their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to create a government “of, by, and for the people.” There is no way to preserve such a government without full confidence in the system that secures the people’s vote, and in the chief election official who administers it. Louisianans, stay vigilant.
Christopher Alexander – Louisiana Citizen Advocacy Group www.lacag.org