NEW ORLEANS, La. (WDSU) — Louisiana Secretary of State Kyler Ardoin answered lawmakers’ questions Wednesday about an error he said his office made when more than 300,000 eligible voters were left off a mailing list to receive a letter about a mail-in voting program.
The April 1 letter gave information about the program that automatically sends absentee ballots to people 65 or older for each election cycle. It was sent to about 315,000 people, even though more than 600,000 people were eligible or the program, Secretary of State Kyle Aroin and his staff have said.
“At no time was political party or gender or race ever considered in the data entry,” Ardoin said Wednesday. “Nothing nefarious (was) intended.”
Ardoin reported said Wednesday about 59 percent of the April 1 letter recipients were Democrats, 26 percent were Republicans and 16 percent were neither or “no party.”
He told the House and Governmental Affairs committee he discovered the error while processing a public records request. The office realized the mistake when noting the total number of voters eligible for the program was about double the amount of letter recipients.
WDSU submitted the public records request May 29 seeking the April 1 letter mailing list, along with the total number of voters eligible for the program detailed in the letter.
“I take full responsibility for the error. Certainly, we should have checked out the numbers, but we did not,” Ardoin said.
Ardoin told WDSU last week and explained to the committee Wednesday that those left off the mailing list were excluded because someone in his office’s information technology department accidentally removed eligible voters who at any point have ever requested an absentee ballot. They were supposed to exclude only those who already signed up for the over-65 mail-in ballot program — about 92,200 people, he said.
The Louisiana Democratic Party in recent weeks started looking into hundreds of anecdotal reports of party members who did not receive the letters. A 72-year-old Northshore viewer and Democrat who was concerned she did not receive the letter brought the issue to the attention of WDSU.
Ardoin said the office was glad they discovered the mistake. As of Wednesday, about 125,000 more letters had been mailed out to those left off the first list. Letters to the remaining eligible voters should be sent by Friday, he said.
The office was not asked to send out the letter and had not sent out a similar one before, Ardoin said. He said it was sent this year to spread awareness about the 65-and-older program because the state’s older population is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and may want to avoid in-person voting.
Rep. Royce Duplessis, a Democrat from New Orleans, asked Ardoin how his office would prevent similar mistakes in the. Ardoin said he’s added another level of supervisory review for IT queries.
“It won’t happen again,” the secretary said.
WDSU has received a copy of the original mailing list from the Secretary of State and is working to analyze it. The list provided to WDSU does not include party affiliation, despite a request to include it, because the office said such a dataset did not exist.
By: Emily Lane and Greg LaRose