Private machine for “select voters” raises questions

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JEFFERSON, La. (WGNO) –   If you ask the registrar of voters for Jefferson Parish, Dennis DiMarco, it was a politically motivated attack on his office.  But if you ask Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, it’s about “transparency and integrity.”

Either way, the state has “taken custody” of a voting machine that was in a private conference room in DiMarco’s office in Elmwood Park.

According to a letter sent to DiMarco this week and released to the media, Schedler says he was informed of a “complaint” about a voting machine being used only for “select voters.”  Louisiana law requires all voting machines to be placed within public view.

But DiMarco says he kept that machine in his office in order to follow another state law, one that allows military members, police officers, and other first- responders that are in uniform to go the front of a line to vote quickly and get back to their duties.

DiMarco described the private voting area to WGNO as a courtesy extended to those  officers, so that they wouldn’t have to cut in front of regular voters who’ve been waiting in longer than normal lines for early voting.

But attorney Bob Evans- who has clashed with DiMarco over how close to polling stations Evans can take signatures for his Yenni recall petition- claims that a member of DiMarco’s staff ushered him into the conference room to use the private machine.  Evans says he cast his ballot, out of the public eye and without waiting in line, and then made a formal complaint to the U.S. Justice Department that the private vote went against state law.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, Meg Casper, told WGNO that there was, in fact, a member of the state’s polling commission in the conference room to monitor the vote.  Nevertheless, in his letter to DiMarco, Secretary Schedler announced that the machine in the conference room will be “secured” by the state. and “monitored by an alarm system to ensure the integrity of the votes” that were cast on it.

DiMarco says fewer than two dozen voters used that machine, and he told WGNO that he was unaware of the state law requiring all voting machines to be in public view.  He also says that when he was contacted by the state, he immediately turned off the machine.

A registrar of voters who didn’t know that all voting machines in Louisiana must be kept in voters’ public view?

No comment from  state spokeswoman Casper– except to say that the state is “actively investigating.”