Investigators allege election fraud in Louisiana
WASHINGTON (AP) _ New Orleans officials and other Democrats in Louisiana engaged in widespread voter fraud to help Mary Landrieu win a U.S. Senate seat last November, independent investigators said today.
Leaders of the Voting Integrity Project Inc. said they have confirmed some of the allegations made by the campaign of Republican Woody Jenkins, who lost the Senate race to Landrieu. They urged the Senate and FBI to conduct their own investigations.
``There has been coercion of local employees to compel them to participate in federal campaigns,″ Neal Hogan, an investigator for the project, told reporters.
Landrieu is due to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday. The Senate Rules Committee is reviewing a complaint from Jenkins, who dropped a lawsuit challenging the election outcome.
Hogan, a lawyer whose work in the past has been chiefly investigating white-collar crime for law firms, acknowledged he has spent only 10 days in Louisiana looking into the Nov. 5 balloting.
Nevertheless, he said, ``VIP has concluded that probable cause exists to believe that large-scale violations of federal and state election laws have occurred. Furthermore, probable cause exists to believe that those violations were organized by (New Orleans) Mayor Marc Morial’s administration, Mayor Morial’s personal political organization (the Louisiana Independent Federation of Electors Inc.) and the Mary Landrieu for Senate campaign.″
Jenkins, who lost the race by fewer than 6,000 votes, has alleged in a petition to the Senate Rules Committee that the Landrieu campaign bought votes, hauled voters en masse to the polls and coerced city New Orleans city employees to take part in the campaign.
``What remains to be proven is who actually orchestrated the voter-hauling operation,″ Hogan said.
Hogan said he has confirmed allegations that some ballots were cast in the names of dead people, that election officials in Orleans Parish failed to secure some voting machines and that many voters were allowed to cast ballots without furnishing identification.
``Combined with the Motor Voter system of registration by mail, the failure to require identification as required at the polling place permits fraudulent registrations and multiple registrations by a single voter and consequently fraudulent votes,″ the Voter Integrity Project concluded.
Hogan referred to an affidavit from Victor Ortiz, a former New Orleans assistant city attorney, who described how he and others were coerced to take part in the Landrieu and Clinton-Gore campaigns. If they refused, Hogan quoted Ortiz as saying, they were threatened with a loss of their jobs.
Ortiz’s affidavit was released earlier by the Jenkins campaign and he was interviewed subsequently by Hogan.
Voter Integrity Project, based in Merrifield, Va., was chartered last March to educate voters about election laws. The nonpartisan organization, whose money comes from private contributors, was asked by Jenkins to join in investigating the Louisiana race.