Always count on Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards to politicize matters instead of relying on principle that better serves the people.
That tendency he put on display again when he vetoed from the 2020 Second Extraordinary Session of the Louisiana Legislature two helpful bills. One, SB 20, would have changed the emergency elections procedure to increase its flexibility.
Under current law, under an emergency the secretary of state can propose temporary changes to the election code with the force of law. These then would have to obtain legislative and gubernatorial approval. The change would have allowed a pair of chamber panels meeting together to suggest changes to the secretary that it would approve before the entire chamber and governor would review. It also gave the chambers the option of overriding a gubernatorial veto.
Outside of a spurious objection – that as the balloting on these plans could occur electronically that might violate open meetings laws, completely disregarding that the current system by mail uses the same procedure, and by drawing a risibly artificial distinction between security of legislative mail ballots and those cast electronically – most of the veto message was a vitriolic spleen-venting concerning the events that prompted the bill, when an inferior plan that increased the probability of fraudulent ballots cast then and in the future was vetoed by the Legislature, followed by Edwards vetoing an improved revised version. Then, Edwards subverted the law by taking the matter to federal court and lucking out with an activist judge, who ignored the Constitution and jurisprudence to give him most of what he wanted.
His veto message gave no reasonable justification against the changes, but plenty of politicized animus. Governors can veto for whatever reason they like, even if nonsensical or disingenuous in nature. They also, whether out of ignorance or duplicity born of political motives, can mischaracterize bills that they veto, as Edwards exemplified with his treatment of SB 74.
That bill would have added to the crime of voting or attempting to vote illegally doing these by mail, including applying to do so, procuring documents known to be false, or molesting such mail-related documents. Edwards’ veto alleges the language duplicates existing statute that makes criminal supply of false information in spoken or written form to election officials, to the tune of at most two years imprisonment and at most $2,000 in fines, or both.
In that sense, there would have been much overlap between the bill and existing law – but not entirely. Crucially, the bill stated that “No person shall knowingly, willfully, or intentionally: … Procure or submit voter registration applications or applications to vote absentee by mail that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent” (emphasis mine; the bill added absentee applications).
Currently, the law doesn’t cover procuration of fraudulent mail ballot requests. Say someone bent on voting fraud places or coopts a nursing home employee to fill out fraudulent vote-by-mail requests from residents, which then ballots from which later will be intercepted, filled out a certain way, and whether forging or enticing a resident’s signature, submitted. Under current law, while the scheme instigator has committed a crime, the insider hasn’t.
Also, the bill would have changed the punishment for transgressions regarding false mail ballot representations and documentation, by adding that second and subsequent offenses would jack up the maximum sentence to five years and maximum fine to $5,000, or both. In essence, it creates another kind of crime dealing with falsified applications for and voting by mail with stiffer penalties for repeat offenders.
The veto message ignores these aspects completely, creating a false impression. Now if we only knew what political motive Edwards might have for not raising penalties on serial mail ballot fraudsters or for shielding insiders committing mail ballot application fraud ….