QUESTION: With election season upon us (the runoff is on Dec. 6), I have a question. We’re told we need a government-issued picture ID, complete with our address and signature, thus eliminating government-issued student IDs, due to fraud and abuse. Could you please find out how many actual legitimate cases of voter fraud occurred in Louisiana in recent years? By legitimate, I mean where somebody was charged, cases were referred to state or federal prosecutors, cases adjudicated in court. I do not mean the old generalized “oh, plenty of cases” that voter ID supporters use as justification for their positions. Surely the Secretary of State’s office would (or should) have this data.

ANSWER: Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler tells us that Louisiana has one of the oldest voter ID laws, one he says is often touted as “middle of the road.”

The law was passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 1997 and received Justice Department pre-clearance,” Schedler says.

Accepted forms of ID are:

A Louisiana’s driver’s license.

A Louisiana special ID card, which is available for free at the Office of Motor Vehicles when you show your voter registration card.

Or any other generally recognized ID with a name, photo and signature, such as a military ID or passport.

“Voters without an ID can still vote, however, and they do not have to vote provisionally, which makes Louisiana’s law unique and provides a fail-safe option for voters,” Schedler says.

“Voters without an ID on Election Day fill out an affidavit with several pieces of identifying information when they arrive to vote. That affidavit is then audited after the polls close to verify the information provided.”

The Election Code, La. R.S. 18:1461.2, may be “middle of the road,” but the price can be steep for violators. The code calls for fines of up to $2,000 and/or up to two years at hard labor for a first offense, and up to $5,000 and or up to five years at hard labor for a subsequent offense.

Steven Hartmann, a spokesman for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, notes that the Voting Compliance Unit within the Secretary of State’s Office investigates any such allegations before providing a report to the appropriate district attorney.

“The Attorney General’s Office does not have original criminal jurisdiction and would only prosecute such a case if the district attorney recused the matter,” Hartmann said. “There have been no instances of this in recent years.”

Schedler also says the unit has received no recent complaints of voter ID fraud, a situation he attributes to the state law.

“Given that many activities today require a photo ID, including getting on a plane, purchasing certain items at a pharmacy, cashing a check, etc., the Secretary of State’s Office believes our law protects the integrity of our election system and gives the public confidence that every vote counts,” Schedler said.

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