Secretary of state addresses elections, lawsuits
CROWLEY – Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s talk with the Rotary Club of Crowley Tuesday enlightened the club about elections and a couple of lawsuits that Schedler believes all should keep an eye on. All of this before 1 p.m.
“I am a former Rotarian, serving as a president of my club in Slidell and a Paul Harris Fellow, so I know the rules of the road; end the speech at one, no later,” he said.
Schedler, who became secretary of state in 2010 after Jay Dardenne became lieutenant governor.
He explained that he is trying to put a face to the secretary of state’s office to better explain what it is that it does.
First, Schedler focused on elections, pointing to the great work the offices of the Acadia Parish clerk of court and registrar of voters do.
“We do not do [elections] by ourselves at the secretary of state’s office,” he said. “We at the secretary of state are a hub, but without those two entities those elections could not happen.”
He then shared several interesting statistics with the club concerning voters in Acadia Parish as well as the state.
Statewide, there are 2.9 million registered voters, equating to 86 percent of eligible voters being registered. That is equal to fourth best in the country. As Schedler pointed out though, two of the three ahead of Louisiana offer the chance to register to vote on election day itself.
The state was also one of only two to increase its voting numbers in the last two presidential elections (Iowa being the only other). It was also the second state to offer voter registration online.
Schedler also explained his passion for voting through a campaign that he has championed, “Honor Vets, Vote,” which looks to voters to exercise their right if for no other reason than those who have fought bravely to protect that right.
“I think we can all agree, whether you’re a democrat or a republican or libertarian or so on, we are allowed to vote because those men and women fought for us to have the right to do so,” he said. “Just think of the men and women in your family that are over there and would probably much rather be over here in a meeting like this instead but fight for our freedoms and rights.”
Schedler then directed his attention to two lawsuits his department is involved in, one of which calls for the attention of any and all voters.
The first concerns Project Vote and how the plaintiffs allege that the state departments are not vigorous enough in trying to get people to register to vote. That case has been back and forth and Schedler expects the appellate process to continue.
The second is far more intriguing and even by some estimations disturbing. The case, which is currently in the discovery phase has Schedler’s office being ordered by a federal judge to hand over the extensive list of all Louisiana voters including their personal information and the codes that combine all information. More worrisome is that the Department of Justice is ordering that all plaintiffs can see the information. This despite the fact that federal and state laws prohibit others from receiving this list.
The Department of Justice has demanded all data relating to all registered voters in Louisiana, including current and former names, current and former addresses, current and former counties of residence, date of birth, full social security number, current and former driver’s license numbers, race and/or ethnicity, medical records, disability records, and all current and former internal identification numbers assigned to every single registered voter in the state.
The state is looking to the Fifth District courts to intervene and hear an appeal to not turn over this information in what would amount to an extraordinary circumstance.
“This is an issue that is about to start to become very public,” said Schedler. “For now all I can say is ‘Stay tuned’.
“This is a dangerous situation. If we ever lose confidence in our election system, we turn into a third world country.”
Schedler believes that a move like this could cause many to lose faith in that system.
This case is unique to Louisiana at this point, but according to Schedler other states have received the letters he received 18 months ago.