Port Allen voter fraud investigated

The West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office have launched an investigation into allegations of voter fraud in the Port Allen mayoral race, Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. Richie Johnson said Friday.

The investigation began late Thursday after the Sheriff’s Office received multiple complaints about hundreds of mail-in and faxed requests for early voting ballots that did not match voter information on file with the parish Registrar of Voters Office, Johnson said.

Meg Casper, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed Friday her office had also received complaints, which it turned over to the Sheriff’s Office.

“That’s proper protocol in this case,” she said. “We can’t release any details beyond that since it is an active investigation.”

Johnson said at least one of the ballots under review in the special election is from someone tied to the campaign of former Mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter, who is seeking re-election after her Nov. 16 recall, less than six months into her first term as mayor.

Slaughter said Friday she has contacted her lawyer and urged him to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice concerning voter intimidation and voter suppression she feels is tied to the voter fraud investigation.

“I’ve been getting a number of complaints from senior citizens and other voters in Port Allen who said they were contacted by sheriff’s deputies who asked them if it was their signature on (early) ballots,” Slaughter said. “The citizens were especially troubled by the deputies asking them if they voted for Slaughter. This is really making people upset. Here we are on the eve of early voting closing and the Sheriff’s Office is releasing these false claims to the news media.”

Johnson said Slaughter’s allegations are “just silly.”

Early voting kicked off on March 22 and ends 6 p.m. Saturday. The special election to fill the remainder of Slaughter’s term is scheduled for April 5.

The ousted mayor faces three challengers in the race: retired law enforcement officer Richard Lee, retired teacher Kirby Anderson and local businessman Larry Bell.

Johnson said at least one individual trying to submit an early ballot was told by workers in the Registrar’s Office that his ballot could not be accepted because he had already cast his vote via mail-in ballot. However, the individual told authorities he hadn’t voted yet, Johnson said.

The Sheriff’s Office is now interviewing every person who submitted a ballot request with mismatched information or whose votes were rejected because they were told they had already voted.

“We don’t know if a violation of law will come from this,” Johnson said. “Our hope is that we’ll be able to assure the voters that it’ll be a fair, accurate and legal election, to the best of our abilities.”