The dispute over litigation involving state voter registration activities continued Wednesday in the secretary of state’s race as Saturday’s election nears.
Democrat Chris Tyson said Wednesday that incumbent Republican Tom Schedler wasted $1.3 million on attorney fees in a losing federal court challenge over “constitutional” and “state’s rights” issues that had no chance from the beginning of being successful.
In addition, the state taxpayers will also have to pay some plaintiffs’ attorney fees, he said. The amount has not been set.
“I want to be clear about the facts and disposition of the case,” said Tyson, a Baton Rouge lawyer.
Schedler defends the state legal response in a case in which the NAACP and others alleged his office was not doing enough to register people to vote when they sought help at state public assistance agencies. He argued that the agencies were in the executive branch and not under his control.
Schedler said Tyson is inflating the legal expenses – saying the $1.3 million represents what his office has spent defending all lawsuits against it over several years.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal found Schedler as the state’s chief elections officer responsible for compliance with the National Voter Registration Act.
But the 5th Circuit also found the state “in substantial compliance” with federal requirements and dismissed two of the three NAACP claims, related to remote transactions and declination forms, as well as the claims of the lead plaintiff for lack of standing.
Tyson said it would have been easy to forgo the litigation.
“Reasonable people can disagree whether it’s a worthwhile pursuit,” Tyson said. Schedler apparently thought it was necessary to fight the lawsuit, he said. “I disagree.”