Election officials in Louisiana seized a voting machine on Wednesday that was reserved for “VIP” voters who could skip voting lines.
Dennis DiMarco, the longtime Jefferson Parish registrar of voters, kept the machine in a conference room and allowed certain voters to use it, The Advocate reported. The setup was reportedly intended to benefit police officers, military members and firefighters ― whose time, DiMarco said, “for lack of a better term, is more valuable than others’.” He estimated that 20 people had used the machine since early voting began in the state on Oct. 25.
After receiving a complaint about the setup, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office seized the machine and a book listing the voters who’d used it, Meg Casper, a Schedler spokeswoman, told The Huffington Post. The voting arrangement was unprecedented and is being investigated, said Casper, who noted that the Department of Justice had also received a complaint.
“I feel this action is necessary to preserve the transparency and integrity of early voting and to promote confidence within the general public regarding the voting process,” Schedler wrote in a letter to DiMarco.
Louisiana state law requires “each voting machine shall be placed inside the polling place and shall be in full view of the public from the time the election begins until the last elector has voted. The commissioners and watchers shall be stationed near the voting machines, and the commissioners shall regulate the admission of the voters thereto, and each shall always be in full view of the other election commissioners and watchers and, as far as possible, of the public.”
DiMarco told HuffPost he had been unaware of the state law requiring the voting machine to be on public display. He said that he didn’t see any problem with extending the “courtesy” of a quick vote to some people, and asserted that no fraudulent voting had occurred.
“There was no fraudulent votes, there’s no allegations about that. No allegations of anyone voting who was not entitled to vote,” he said. “Now, we’ve turned down everybody. So no one gets preferential treatment. But again, that means that those firemen, those policemen, are standing up rather than maybe doing their duty on the streets.”
GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has stoked fears about voter fraud across the country, though it’s something that does not occur frequently enough to sway an election. Early voting has already begun in many states, resulting in long lines as Republicans have pushed to limit early voting hours.
This story has been updated with comment from Dennis DiMarco.
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