Louisiana is one of three states apparently targeted by the Russian government as it sought to send poll monitors to voting precincts in the United States to watch the Nov. 8 presidential election.
But Secretary of State Tom Schedler, after consulting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FBI, denied the foreign government's request.
The news came to light on Thursday following reports in Russia's state-run media outlets, Izvestia daily and RT, and at a time when GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to raise questions about the integrity of the U.S. elections system.
Early voting runs for a week in Louisiana beginning on Tuesday.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Threatening a fundamental pillar of American democracy, Donald Trump refuse…
“Let me strongly reassure the voters of Louisiana that the integrity of the election process in our state is secure,” Schedler told The Advocate on Thursday. “We may have had a checkered past in this state, but we now have some of the most robust laws in the nation, including our photo I.D. law. My job is to make voting easy and cheating hard. It’s a delicate balance to make sure our citizens can vote without hassle, but that those who choose to break the law are easily detected. Additionally, our voting machines are never connected to the internet and are backed up with a printable audit trail after each election. Voter fraud is no joking matter and executing a fair election is one we all take very seriously.”
In a letter dated Sept. 24, Alexander K. Zakharov, the Russian consul general in Houston, asked for Schedler's help in allowing a representative "to be present (for a short period of time, when convenient) at one of the ballot station of Louisiana with the goal of studying the US experience in organization of voting process during The United Stated States Presidential Elections [sic]."
After seeking advice from the U.S. feds, Schedler replied that, due to catastrophic flooding that swept across South Louisiana in August, his office would be unable to assist the Russian government.
"Had this flood event not occurred, we certainly would have been open to such a visit, but I cannot meet such a request with the situation I currently have in front of me," Schedler replied. "I hope you take this in the spirit for which it is intended, but I would ask you please contact me in 2020 if you still are desirous to visit a precinct in a presidential election."
He added that he wished the Russians luck in securing opportunities in other states.
But Russian leaders, in the reports from state-run media, characterized the rejection from Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma as (translated) "We do not want to see you and goodbye."
Trump, who has been trailing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in recent polls, has complained that he believed the election was being "rigged" against him.
During Wednesday night's presidential debate, he would not say whether he would accept the results on Election Day, saying he would keep the country "in suspense."
On Thursday, he doubled-down on those remarks during a campaign stop in Ohio, promising to accept the results "if I win."
Meanwhile, federal officials have accused Russia of attempting to meddle in the U.S. election process and alleged that Russia is behind a series of computer hacks that led to leaked embarrassing emails tied to the Clinton campaign.