You probably had a lot more to worry about on Jan. 6 — the date of the Electoral College certification and the Capitol incursion — than what was happening in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.
A few hours before a national tragedy played out on television, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced in Baton Rouge that Amite City Councilman Emanuel Zanders had been arrested Monday and charged with eight counts of election fraud.
According to The Advocate, Zanders, a 52-year-old Democrat and a former mayor pro tem of Amite City, had illegally registered voters at addresses they didn’t live at so that they could vote in his district. Zanders had been booked into Tangipahoa Parish Prison on Jan. 5 but later bonded out, Landry’s office said in a media release.
At his Jan. 6 news conference, Landry said Zanders “purposefully manipulated citizens into illegally changing their voter registrations” by having them sign their registration forms then filling in the address himself later, according to WAFB-TV.
As masters of voter fraud go, Zanders will never be considered a master criminal if the accusations are correct. His method of laundering the voters into his district was to assign them vacant lots as addresses, officials say. Not only did the Tangipahoa Parish Registrar of Voters notice the addresses were fraudulent, they noticed six people were registered to vote at one of the lots and 13 at another.
Another false voter registration, Landry said, used Zanders’ own address.
Overall, it’s alleged that Zanders faked more than 20 registrations this way.
The registrar tipped off Landry’s office in October 2020, and the subsequent investigation led to Zanders’ arrest.
Keep in mind, even on this small scale, the voter fraud alleged here may have been enough to win Zanders the election.
Zanders received only 48 percent of the vote in November’s general election, compared to 33 percent for local businesswoman Claire Bel and 19 percent for former councilman Mark Vining.
Louisiana’s electoral system functions much like Georgia’s, so the councilman was forced into a runoff with Bel — where he garnered 206 votes to Bel’s 187, a margin of 19.
This would have been his third term, having served on the council for eight years.
“Anything other than one-for-one votes distorts our election process, and those who wish to distort an election process in this manner are breaking the law and betraying their fellow citizens,” Landry said. “It’s even more disheartening when the perpetrator is an elected official.”
“Few things are more American than our right to vote,” he added. “And, with that, comes the mandate for open, fair and transparent elections.”
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who also spoke at the news conference, said prosecuting cases like Zanders’ was key to maintaining election integrity.
“Election integrity matters,” Ardoin said. “Yesterday’s arrest is the culmination of work by my office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Registrar of Voters, and others; and it proves that the multi-level checks and balances of our election processes and procedures work.
“This should serve as a stark warning to those looking to violate our election laws,” he added.
Small stakes? Perhaps, although probably not to voters in Amite City. Sloppy, amateurish? Absolutely, if Zanders did what he’s accused of. Meaningless? Not so much.
While I would urge readers not to take the micro and make it macro — Kraken-releasing material, this is not — Zanders’ case is a reminder there’s some medium between claims of all-encompassing voter fraud and claims of absolute election integrity.
The former claim, absent any evidence to that effect, is dubious — but not as dubious as the latter. Leave aside electoral, procedural and legal inconsistencies in the system. In many cases, you have blatant ground-level election fraud like what’s being alleged here.
Yes, this is the Amite City Council. American democracy doesn’t hinge upon it.
But in terms of prosecutable voter fraud potentially tipping a federal election, consider that North Carolina refused to certify Mark Harris, the putative winner of its 9th Congressional District in 2018, after irregularities emerged in his 905-vote win.
According to The New York Times, Harris won 61 percent of the absentee vote despite only 19 percent of it consisting of registered Republicans. Authorities honed in on a ballot-harvesting scheme in which a local political operative would pay collectors for unsealed or uncollected ballots.
The race was re-run — this time without Harris, who bowed out. The political operative is still waiting to stand trial on numerous counts of fraud, according to WECT-TV.
Democrats didn’t seem particularly interested in defending Harris by touting the absence of voter fraud and the integrity of the electoral system. This time, at least Zanders has his allies. City Councilman Jonathon Foster said voter registration drives, not voter fraud, might be to blame here.
“I’m just trying to see what really happened,” Foster said.
“I think they’re using the town here,” he added. “Going through these press conferences and all of that, I figure they must be bored.”
And there’s the left: Voter fraud doesn’t exist. And when alleged voter fraud comes up, why make it a big deal?
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