BATON ROUGE, La. (WDSU) – The Louisiana Secretary of State’s office mistakenly left off about 300,000 eligible voters from a mailing list to receive a letter promoting a mail-in ballot program for seniors, Secretary Kyle Ardoin said Tuesday.
Ardoin told WDSU “human error” in the agency’s information technology department caused the mistake, and plans are in motion to mail out updated letters to voters left off the initial mailing list. About 315,000 eligible voters were mailed the letter in early April.
“When the IT staff was filtering out the 65 and older voters who were currently in the program, they inadvertently put a criteria of any requests for absentee ballots. So unfortunately, there were a number of folks who got taken out of the pool,” Ardoin said.
Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk, who for the last week has looked into anecdotal reports of party members who did not receive the letter, is pleased the office plans to mail out more letters, he said. He said he is not fully satisfied with the explanation, however.
“I understand what they’re telling us, but I think that I need somebody else to independently verify that,” he said.
The program for registered voters 65 and older ensures the state automatically sends enrollees mail-in ballots for each election, allowing them to avoid the hassle of applying to vote absentee in each election cycle. The April 1 letter informed voters of the program and encouraged them to enroll, noting in-person voting puts seniors at a higher health risk of the novel coronavirus.
Every registered voter 65 and older who was not already enrolled in the program was supposed to receive the letter, Ardoin said.
The Secretary of State’s office became aware of the error this week while fulfilling a WDSU public records request seeking the mailing list, the total number of registered voters over 65 and the total number of program enrollees, Ardoin said.
“I’m no mathematician, but I said, ‘We have a problem with these numbers,’” Ardoin said.
WDSU reported Monday the total number of over-65 registered voters in Louisiana was roughly 680,000, according to Handwerk. Mailing out 315,000 letters suggested well over half of those eligible didn’t receive it. Handwerk had expressed doubt that roughly 60 percent of senior voters were already enrolled in the program, which would have been the only explanation based on criteria the Secretary of State’s office claimed it used for the mailing list.
“Mistakes happen…I’m human, I make my own mistakes,” Handwerk said. “But we need a full accounting of how this mistake was made.
Who were the individuals who actually did make the list versus who didn’t.”
Ardoin, a Republican, on Tuesday assured reporters the filter error did not involve party affiliation.
“Those who want to assign nefarious intentions are going to do so regardless.
But those who are listening to me and willing to hear the truth will recognize the truth,” Ardoin said.
WDSU has obtained the Secretary of State’s mailing list for the April 1 letter and are in the process of reviewing it.
Qualifying voters who did not receive the letter in early April can expect an updated letter from him in seven to 10 days, the secretary said.
He intends to cover the costs for expanding the program through federal coronavirus relief money or future reimbursements.
Seniors interested in the program need not wait to receive a letter, Ardoin said.
To enroll, registered voters can call their local registrar of voters or enroll online at geauxvote.com.
By: Emily Lane