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Conspiracies complicate voting machine debate inside Louisiana

Conspiracies complicate voting machine debate inside Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The need for Louisiana to replace its voting machines is not inside dispute.

They are poorly outdated — deployed inside 2006, the year following Hurricane Katrina struck -- accompanied by every one one other accompanied by do not manufacture paper ballots that are critical to ensuring election results are accurate.

What to do concerning them is another story.

The long-running drama includes foregoing allegations of bid-rigging, voting machine companies claiming favoritism accompanied by every one one other accompanied by a secretary of condition who is noncommittal concerning having a new system inside place for the 2024 presidential election.

Local election clerks excessively fret concerning the effect of conspiracy theorists who have peddled unfounded claims concerning voting apparatus accompanied by every one one other accompanied by have been welcomed into the debate over new machines.

"It would exist a travesty to permit a minority of people who have little to no indeed indeed experience inside election management tear down an exceptional procedure that was painstakingly built over many, numerous years," Calcasieu Parish Clerk of Court Lynn Jones told condition officials inside a gathering this summer. "And for us to hurl it not here of the window since of unfounded theories is mind-boggling."


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The uncertainty is playing not here opposed to a backdrop of attacks on the integrity of elections, fueled by former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him accompanied by every one one other accompanied by promoted by a web of his allies accompanied by every one one other accompanied by supporters. Some of those same supporters have been trying to prevail on election officials across the country that they should ditch machines inside good turn of paper ballots accompanied by every one one other accompanied by hand-counts.

Whatever favourable consequence they have had so a lengthy way has been restricted primarily to GOP-dominated rural counties. But inside Louisiana, a laboriously Republican condition that Trump won by almost 20 percentage points, they have managed to place themselves into an by that hour dated long-delayed procedure of choosing a new statewide voting system.

Louisiana officials have been trying for at least quartet years to replace their outdated touchscreen voting machines. Although some counties inside quartet other states still use the machines, Louisiana is the only one where they are inside place statewide — some 10,000 inside all.

The machines' main problem, to one side from their number of years accompanied by every one one other accompanied by the exist courageous sufficient of finding replacement parts, is that votes are recorded electronically lacking a paper record of every one one voter's selections. That means if a consequence is inside dispute, there are no indeed indeed individual paper ballots to analysis to build sure the consequence was accurate. Under a new condition law, Louisiana's following voting system must have a paper series of ballots cast so election results tin exist properly audited.

"The strain inside Louisiana is that if someone were to allege the voting machines had been hacked, there would exist no indeed indeed conclusive proof to rebut that," said Mark Lindeman, director of Verified Voting, which tracks the use of voting apparatus inside the United States. "It leaves election officials to demonstrate a negative."

While election clerks concur the machines are antiquated accompanied by every one one other accompanied by there is a need for a paper record, the apparatus does not become perceptible to have caused some greatest problems inside recent years.

In 2018, the nation's top homeland safety accompanied by every one one other accompanied by cybersecurity officials urged states to replace some residual voting systems lacking a paper series to improve safety accompanied by every one one other accompanied by grow condition confidence. Congress allocated $805 million earlier to the 2020 election to assist states pay for safety upgrades, including new equipment.

Louisiana officials, inside a 2018 report to the confederate agency disbursing the money, said they planned to use the state's part to cover the costs of "a new electronic voting system" accompanied by every one one other accompanied by noted the condition had by that hour dated begun the procurement process.

But that same year, the accord was voided amid allegations of bid-rigging. In 2021, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin shelved another replacement try following the procedure was challenged by voting machine companies that claimed favoritism for the state's contemporaneous vendor, Dominion Voting Systems.

Following the 2020 presidential election, Dominion was ensnared inside a web of conspiracy theories pushed by Trump accompanied by every one one other accompanied by his allies, claiming their voting machines were rigged to purloin the election. The firm has pushed back, filing defamation lawsuits opposed to conservative media outlets accompanied by every one one other accompanied by Trump allies, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

The incorrect claims have taken root inside conservative communities, where local officials have been pressured to place an extremity to using computer apparatus for casting accompanied by every one one other accompanied by counting ballots.

Last December, Phil Waldron — a former Army colonel who circulated a PowerPoint awarding offering suggestions for how to overturn the 2020 election — was invited to speak to the percentage tasked accompanied by recommending the new voting system for Louisiana. Waldron gave a 90-minute awarding focusing on counting paper ballots by hand, according to The Washington Post.

More recently, Lindell, one of the most prominent supporters of ditching election machines accompanied by every one one other accompanied by counting every one one ballot by hand, traveled to Baton Rouge to testify earlier to the same commission.

At a June gathering at the Capitol, Ardoin place to one side rules limiting condition testimony to trio minutes per anthropoid actuality so Lindell could address the percentage at length. During his 17-minute address, Lindell comprehensive his national quest opposed to "corrupted" voting systems accompanied by every one one other accompanied by "stolen" elections.

"We mislay every one thing if we retain flat one machine moving forward," Lindell told the commission. He went on to report Louisiana while "the point of the spear" inside his efforts to extremity the use of voting machines across the country.

At the meeting, multiple clerks said they were opposed to what Lindell was advocating -- having every one one voter become filled not here a paper ballot accompanied by every one one other accompanied by having every one one ballot counted by hand, a procedure that would involve tens of thousands of ballots inside the most populous counties.

"Don't mistake not wanting to go spine to a pen-and-paper while not wanting to have an auditable ballot trail," said David Ditch, the office employee of court of rules and regulations of rules with every one other accompanied by regulations for Iberia Parish. "Everybody -- every one one political persuasion accompanied by every one one other accompanied by everybody that comes into my office -- says the same thing, 'We deep affection the way we ballot now. We fair wish we had something to demonstrate it inside the end.'"

The percentage ultimately voted to advocate the use of either hand-marked or machine-marked ballots or a amalgamation of the two, accompanied by every one one other accompanied by for the condition to retain electronic tabulators for counting ballots. Commissioners, including Adroin, voted inside good turn of machine-scanned ballot tallies — not hand-counts.

The following go is Ardoin's.

A Republican earliest elected inside 2018, he has defended the state's elections while firm flat while he has handed a megaphone to some of the most prominent election conspiracy theorists.

In response to written questions, his office said Ardoin was "currently reviewing the commission's recommendations accompanied by every one one other accompanied by will labour accompanied by his staff while those recommendations tell to the following steps inside acquisition of a new voting system."

When asked whether the goal was to have a new voting system inside place earlier to the 2024 presidential election, Ardoin's office said it was "difficult at this hour dated to speak what the scheme will be" nevertheless that place of set of two years is "probably the closest estimate."

At a gathering inside July of the nation's top condition election officials, Ardoin raised the matter of hand-marked paper ballots while dismissing hand-counting while something that would "extend elections over years."

His remarks prompted a fellow Republican, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, to tell the category that he had on one instance served while an international observer inside Russia accompanied by every one one other accompanied by had seen hand-counting up close.

"If you'd exist fond of to have an positioning concerning how that goes, that is the easiest way to swindle that you tin introduce to anybody," Merrill told attendees. "I tin assure you that's not a way that you want to go. The people that are promoting that are ignorant or ill-informed, period."

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