BR.newroadsmayor.102017 HS 118.JPG (copy)

Former New Roads Mayor Robert Myer outside the Iberville Parish Courthouse after entering a "no contest plea" to one count of malfeasance in office, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in Plaquemine, La.

In a Daily Caller interview, President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday, without presenting evidence, that fraudsters had cast ballots in the Nov. 6 election, changed their shirts to disguise themselves and voted again.

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump said. “It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

Louisiana, in its own unique way, joined the fray that has energized partisans for more than two decades when the state’s highest-ranking official and its third-highest squared off over the voting rights of a real person.

Interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Baton Rouge Republican, faces a Dec. 8 runoff against Gwen Collins-Greenup, a Clinton Democrat, to fill out the remaining year of Tom Schedler’s term as secretary of state.

A report by Baton Rouge’s WBRZ-TV that a convicted felon, whose brother is a high-ranking official in the Department of Corrections, voted Nov. 6 was something of a twofer for Ardoin's political ambitions. He could take determined action to fight fraud plus smack Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Ardoin wrote Edwards demanding the governor’s office “fully investigate to determine if this error occurred due to negligence or if there was preferential treatment given.”

The only investigation necessary, however, would have been to crack a law book to see that Robert Myer had never lost his right to vote because he was not “under an order of imprisonment.” Rather, Myer stepped down as mayor of New Roads as part of a plea agreement over charges involving the misuse of city credit cards. His sentence was deferred under Section 893 of the Criminal Code. His probation was completed in July. The Election Code, with which one could reasonably assume the secretary of state would be familiar, provides that Section 893 people can vote. The right has been reiterated since 1990 by two different attorney generals.

Today, 5,064 individuals had their sentences deferred and are free to vote, according to the Department of Corrections.

Ardoin sought a list of the Section 893 voters, but Corrections has never given the secretary of state that list during the past three decades because those convicts have the same right to vote as you or I.

Like most politicians, Edwards sometimes can get a little prickly. He fired off a letter using blunter language than the shoulder-borne angel of caution would have recommended.

"I have serious concerns about your lack of knowledge regarding voting rights in this state,” Edwards wrote Ardoin Tuesday. “As the chief elections officer of the state, that you would toss around something as sacred as an individual’s right to vote like a political football in your ongoing campaign for office is extremely troubling. Elections should be nonpartisan and free from grandstanding, but that does not appear to be the approach you are taking.”

Ardoin’s office responded in a statement calling Edward's letter a "lengthy, sarcastic response (that) is nothing more than an attempt to sidestep a potentially troubling issue and a failure to address any of our specific concerns."

U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, who in two weeks is expected to be an announced GOP challenger to Edwards reelection, jumped to Ardoin’s defense Thursday, saying the interim secretary of state was “correct to raise questions.” A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who vets the qualifications of federal judges, Kennedy went on to say in his news release that the voting process shouldn’t be politicized because of anger over election results. He reminded the public that “voting is a privilege.”

Actually, voting is one those unenumerated rights protected under the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution underlines voting as a right, rather than a privilege, in the 15th Amendment, which allows African Americans to vote; the 19th Amendment, which allows women to vote; the 23rd Amendment, which includes the District of Columbia in the electoral college; the 24th Amendment that prohibits poll taxes and other hurdles to registration; and the 26th Amendment that allows 18-year-olds the right to vote.

Myer was perturbed at being cast as the primary puppet in this partisan shadow play. "The fact is, I followed the law to the letter, I always had my right to vote," he told The Advocate Tuesday.

Since his conviction, Myer has been keeping his head down, working hard at building a successful business.

President Trump would apparently approve.

Last week, Trump supported bipartisan prison reform legislation that — like the Louisiana Justice Reinvestment Act — would reduce sentences and help criminals once released from prison.

“We’re all better off when former inmates can receive and re-enter society as law-abiding, productive citizens,” Trump said.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.