Audit: Louisiana Election Integrity Strong
One year after state lawmakers passed a resolution ordering the Legislative Auditor's Office to investigate Louisiana's elections integrity, the results of that audit have been published.
Overall, the legislative auditor says, the Department of State's procedures and practices ensure that Louisiana's elections are conducted fairly and accurately. In fact, the audit found that the majority of the 501 election-related complaints filed last four years were related to campaign practices.
House Concurrent Resolution 81 of the 2021 Regular Legislative Session directed the Legislative Auditor's Office to study the policies the Secretary of State's Office uses to conduct elections. That resolution was one of two bills passed by the legislature last year after some claimed without evidence that Louisiana's elections in 2020 were tainted. The other formed an independent commission to review proposals for any sale of the state's election machines.
The legislative audit notes that Louisiana is one of only 17 states that require voters to provide photo identification when they vote in person. The audit also notes that voters who do not have identification must sign an affidavit that includes personal identifiable information.
"(The Department of State) conducts data matches as required by federal and state law and conducts additional activities to help ensure the accuracy of the voter registration list," auditors say in their summary of their findings. "DOS could further improve the accuracy of the voter registration list by annually conducting its data match that identifies registered Louisiana voters who registered to vote in another state or obtained a driver's license in another state."
Auditors also noted the Department of State could further strengthen elections security by providing guidance to parishes regarding absentee ballots with missing information. The auditors say that lack of guidance has led to inconsistencies in how absentee ballots are counted across the state. This confusion exists despite the fact the Department of State implemented a cure process to help voters make sure their absentee ballots are completed.
"For example, one parish we observed in the November 2021 election rejected all absentee ballots where the affidavit was missing the mother's maiden name, while the other two parishes we observed did not present absentee affidavits that were missing the mother's maiden name for a vote by the Parish Board of Election Supervisors," the auditors wrote in their summary.
The auditors also found parish-by-parish inconsistencies in how voting machines are pretested. They recommend the Department of State and/or local elections officials "consistently verify test results, document the verification, and review the documentation." The auditors also called on the state to obtain new voting machines or systems that produce a "voter-verified paper record.