Louisiana’s Latest Bill Threatens to Strip Legislative Oversight from Election Process

The Louisiana legislature is on the verge of giving Secretary of State (SOS) Nancy Landry immense control over elections in the state.

If Rep. Mike Johnson’s HB 856 gets the final nod in the House, Landry would gain unprecedented authority over election matters, including the fate of Louisiana’s anticipated new $100 million machine-based voting system.

This move raises concerns in a democracy where the fair distribution of power among government branches and robust checks and balances are crucial for survival.

Concentrating too much power in one person or entity breeds corruption, undermines public policy, and threatens liberty. The type of election system we adopt is no exception to this principle.

Johnson’s original bill merely clarified that the Secretary of State (SOS) is “responsible for the maintenance and repair of new voting systems.”

It seemed so harmless that it flew under the radar, with few paying it any mind until it reached the final vote on the Senate floor, where Republican Sen. Mike Reese stuffed it with numerous amendments vesting Landry with unprecedented power.


** The Bill in current form greatly diminishes legislative oversight over the SOS and her selection of our new voting system,
** Eliminates entirely the requirement of attorney general review and approval of any new voting system proposed by the SOS,
** Eliminates the express requirement that any proposed new voting system be examined and tested for security by independent forensic experts,

** Eliminates the requirement that a computer expert be on the final evaluation committee, dispenses with the requirement of public hearings during the selection process by eliminating the standard Administrative Procedure Act,
** And makes the choice of hand-marked, secure paper ballots for voting subject to “legislative appropriation.”

In simpler terms, if the legislature doesn’t allocate funds for a hand-marked system, Louisiana will automatically adopt a completely machine-based voting system. This seems to align with the Secretary of State’s preferences.

The potential changes laid out in HB 856 have ignited a heated discussion about how transparent and accountable Louisiana’s elections will be.

Sharon Hewitt, the lawmaker behind the existing law, is sounding alarms about key aspects of the proposed changes. She’s especially worried about eliminating third-party testing and ditching the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) process, which ensures lawmakers have a say and mandates public hearings.

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Additionally, Alex Haldeman, a respected expert in election security, has cautioned against the weaknesses inherent in electronic voting systems.Instead, he’s a proponent of a secure, hand-marked paper ballot approach.

With these worries in mind, numerous voices contend that stripping away traditional legislative scrutiny, checks and balances, expert forensic assessments, and public hearings from the process of selecting a new voting system is extremely unwise.

There’s optimism that the Louisiana House will refuse HB 856 outright, acknowledging its possible impact on the integrity of the electoral system.

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By Hunter Fielding
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