Russian official denied access to Louisiana polling places

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NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler denied a request from a Russian official to tour a polling station in advance of the presidential election.

In a letter dated September 24, 2016, Consul General Alexander K. Zakharov of the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Houston made the official request.

Zakharov asked for an officer of the Consul General to visit “one of the ballot station of Louisiana with the goal of studying the US experience in organization of voting process” during the upcoming presidential election.

Schedler’s press secretary Meg Casper said such a request from a representative of a foreign government is “very routine.”

“Typically they meet with local and state election officials, public officials and good government groups and eventually take a quick five minute tour of a precinct,” Casper said in an email.

These tours are similar to the types of tours afforded to members of the media, Casper said.

“Other governments have requested to observe elections in the past and have been granted permission,” she said. “We denied all requests this year.”

Casper said Schedler’s office actually received the request in late August, despite the September date on Zakharov’s letter.

In a response dated August 26, 2016, Schedler thanked Zakharov for his interest in the election process, but declined to provide access to a precinct, citing the heavy flooding that inundated much of Baton Rouge in early August.

“As you may or may not be aware, the general Baton Rouge area where my office is located recently sustained heavy damage from a 1000-year flood event,” Schedler wrote. “Had this flood event not occurred, we certainly would have been open to such a visit, but I cannot meet such a request with the situation I currently have in front of me.”

The Associated Press has reported identical requests from Zakharov’s office were sent out to the secretaries of state of Oklahoma and Texas, in addition to Louisiana.

All three requests have been denied, according to the AP.

Click here to view Zakharov’s request and Schedler’s reply