The West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office is investigating the possibility of voter fraud in Port Allen for the race that will elect the city’s next mayor for the remaining near-three years of the term left after former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter was recalled from office.
Colonel Richie Johnson, WBR Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said that the Secretary of State’s office contacted WBRSO to investigate the matter after receiving a report of an unusually high number of applications for absentee by mail ballots that streamed in within the first couple of days of the early voting period for the mayoral election as well as reports that one or more constituents attempted to vote in person after a mail-in ballot had already been submitted in their name.
According to WBR Registrar of Voters Stacy Ryan, as of Tuesday afternoon, 1,428 residents had cast their early vote – 280 by mail. During the recall election in November that saw 1,713 early votes, the largest number of early votes in the city’s history, 190 ballots were cast by mail. The last mayoral election, in December 2012, had 205 ballots mailed in.
Ryan said that the deadline to receive mail-in ballots is Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Johnson said that the investigation is currently open and active.
“We will diligently run down every lead and present a case to the district attorney’s office for prosecution or not,” he said.
Ronald “Ronnie” Slaughter, husband of former mayor/current candidate for mayor, Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter, said that he has helped others fill out applications for absentee by mail ballots throughout the city, adding that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.
“We have some voters that wanted to vote absentee… that is perfectly legal. They’re filling out their own forms and signing their own signatures,” Ronnie Slaughter said. “It was a lot (of applications sent), yeah. It was more than normal, but it’s personal to me.”
He said, though, that he thought others in the city may be guilty of attempting to suppress the vote with frivolity and voter intimidation.
“One deputy asked a young man if he voted for Deedy Slaughter,” Ronnie Slaughter explained, adding that his attorney, Ron Johnson, is in the process of contacting the Department of Justice to investigate the sheriff’s office as well as the registrar of voters for what he says is an attempt to suppress the vote.
Johnson said Slaughter’s allegations are simply “silly,” and don’t even deserve deliberation.
Louisiana state law prohibits election offenses involving bribery, threats or intimidation of election officials or candidates, per RS 18:1461.5.
But Ronnie Slaughter said that he feels as though the “Deedy” Slaughter camp is being attacked.
“We’re out here every day working, walking the streets, asking the people to vote and helping people… We’re not doing anything with no voter fraud,” he said. “And it’s a shame, we’ve got four people running, for them to just come and say it’s coming out of Deedy Slaughter’s camp is a shame.”
One voter, whose name has been omitted for his own protection, received a mail-in ballot after his application was verified by the Registrar of Voters. The application, which calls for two witnesses’ signatures, was signed by the voter as well as Ronnie Slaughter and Larry Profit (both Deedy Slaughter supporters).
According to several sources, the voter, after his mail-in ballot had been taken to the Registrar of Voters’ office, attempted to cast his early vote in person. It remained unconfirmed whether the voter was permitted to vote in person in addition to the mail-in ballot being cast, due to conflicting stories, however WBR Registrar of Voters Stacy Ryan said that even if a voter applies for an absentee by mail ballot, doesn’t mean he/she cannot vote in person.
“The voter has an option of either voting on that (mail-in) ballot and returning it to us or not voting it and instead voting in person, either early voting or on election day,” said Stacy Ryan, WBR Registrar of Voters. “(Voters) do not have to vote the ballot that is mailed to them. Whatever we receive first, whether it be the ballot or the person, is what is counted.”
According to state law (RS 18:1307.F), “the registrar shall not send an absentee ballot to an applicant whose application for an absentee ballot does not meet” certain requirements. The law goes on the state that “if the registrar rejects an application for an absentee ballot, the registrar shall provide the applicant with written reasons for the rejection.”
Col. Johnson said that more than 100 applications for absentee by mail ballot were denied because computers couldn’t verify the signature. He added that of the denied application letters that had been sent, none of them have been refuted, although the cards each state, “if you feel this rejection is in error, please call the registrar of voters office.”
Johnson said that the investigation is ongoing.