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Democrats take chance to rig elections by Bruneau quitting

Yesterday we witnessed state Democrats’ strategy to try to hold onto power in the fall state elections – create an enormously expensive, duplicative, and potentially-fraud-ridden election system. And to some degree, former Republican state Rep. Peppi Bruneau is to blame.

Perceptive observers knew what was going to happen when in 2006 Democrats during the first special session muscled through pieces of legislation that allowed for voting at satellite precincts, made the state send out unsolicited absentee/early voting materials, and allowed people whose identities could not be positively verified to vote. They did have expiration dates, but it was widely known that if blatant fraud and technical problems did not happen, that Democrats would be back again with this, using the previous episode to justify making these provisions permanent – even though existing provisions perfectly were adequate and far less costly.

It helped that they had an ally in Democrat stalwart Al Ater, then the appointed secretary of state. He drained state coffers to make this work for the New Orleans municipal elections, where the costs per voter utilizing these new methods was almost 40 times that of regular voters. But current elections boss Republican Jay Dardenne won the special election to fill the vacancy Ater had occupied temporarily, and Dardenne had been one of the most vocal opponents of that legislation when in the Senate at that time.

With Dardenne providing a good dose of reality in yesterday’s hearings by the House and Governmental Affairs Committee as opposed to Ater’s partisan cheerleading, had the committee that had sat the year before been present it might have been enough to stop the measure from passing. Then as now, the committee had six Democrats and five Republicans even as its Chairman state Rep. Charlie Lancaster was a Republican.

But last year, perhaps eyeing his eventual switch to the Republican Party in order to increase his chances of evading the three-term limit in the House and continuing his legislative career by getting elected to the Senate this fall, state Rep. Billy Montgomery, when not absenting himself from committee meetings at certain key intervals, proved an uncertain vote for the panel’s Democrats. In fact, some of the crucial legislation now being resurrected and expanded by Democrats got enacted because a Republican, state Rep. Loulan Pitre, voted in favor of it.

However, Democrats shored up their support on the committee courtesy of the actions of a reliable vote against them on it, former member Bruneau. They knew that Montgomery’s switch between terms would have given the panel a Republican majority and made him unlikely to support what he had in the past. But Bruneau’s early resignation this year before the session’s start in a failed attempt to facilitate his son’s election in his place gave Democrats the chance to appoint another of their own to replace him, newly-elected Patrick Williams, who joined four other black Democrats, three from urban areas, and the ever-reliable good-old-boy Orleans-area white Democrat Jeff Arnold to form a rock solid majority on the panel.

Thus, election-related measures that would cost the state three years out of four at least $20 million extra for elections, and probably at minimum two or three times that since the Legislative Fiscal Office could not estimate costs of satellite voting offices statewide, were approved on party-line votes (Pitre this time was absent, so his vote wouldn’t have mattered.) All because state Democrats want to make eligible to vote people who have not resided in the state for (when the elections are held) two years who do not have to demonstrate in any substantive way that they want to live in the state, and almost led by their noses to cast a ballot utilizing a process wide-open to fraud given the enormous taxation on election staff resources it will demand, because Democrats think it will help them win elections.

Lancaster vowed to fight this legislation on the House floor. There, we will see whether House Democrats are more interested in election integrity or trying to create conditions allowing for election rigging that could prevent their party’s loss of power.

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