Attorney General Jeff Landry inserts Louisiana into voter-fraud conspiracy lawsuit

Brief cites no actual evidence nor specific allegations of voter fraud on Nov. 3

Democratic presidential candidate, former vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at Wilson High School on October 26, 2019 in Florence, South Carolina. | Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has joined with nine other Republican state attorneys general in a voter-fraud conspiracy lawsuit — that cites no actual evidence nor any specific allegations of voter fraud on Nov. 3 — in a last-minute attempt to overturn the presidential election results in Pennsylvania.

“As I have repeatedly said, only the Supreme Court can ultimately decide cases of real controversy among the states under our Constitution and that is why the Justices should hear and decide this case,” Landry said. “While some in the media and the political class try to sidestep legitimate issues for the sake of expediency, I will continue to pursue legal remedies to protect our State’s people from damage caused by other states counting unlawful votes or not counting lawful votes.”

The case arises from a September ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that granted a request by the state’s Democratic Party to count any absentee ballot received within three days after the election unless the ballot was postmarked after Election Day. The court granted the exception given the U.S. Postal Service’s warning that unprecedented mail delays might cause millions of Pennsylvanian’s votes to go uncounted. 

A similar situation occurred in Louisiana when a federal court ordered changes to the state’s election plan after Republican lawmakers refused to allow COVID-19-related exceptions for absentee ballots and early voting.

Two Pennsylvania Republican legislators later asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the state supreme court’s decision. The motion was denied, but Republicans in Pennsylvania and several other states have since intervened in the case.

President Donald Trump and some of his supporters have filed about 50 different legal challenges to the election. The Pennsylvania case is one of the few that hasn’t been dismissed.

The problem with the Pennsylvania court’s decision, according to those challenging the election’s results, is that the electors clause of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures — not courts — authority to set the time, place and manner of elections, and in Pennsylvania’s case, the PennsylvaniaGeneral Assembly did not set the three-day extension. For that reason, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito expressed some concern before Election Day that the Pennsylvania court’s decision may violate the electors’ clause. In response to that concern, Pennsylvania election officials segregated the relevant ballots as they counted them.

In his amicus brief that inserts the State of Louisiana into the case, Landry spends dozens of pages arguing that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision created a perfect storm for fraudulent actors to steal the election from incumbent President Donald Trump, but he doesn’t make any specific allegations of fraud or provide any evidence of it. 

Landry argues that the rule allowing late-arriving ballots to be counted created a “post-election window of time during which nefarious actors could wait and see whether the Presidential election would be close, and whether perpetrating fraud in Pennsylvania would be worthwhile.” He adds that it also enhanced the opportunities for fraud by mandating that late ballots must be counted even when they aren’t postmarked, “and thus there is no evidence they were mailed by Election Day.”

The Pennsylvania court did not mandate that late ballots be counted even when not postmarked. Rather, the court said ballots received up to three days after Election Day should be presumed to have been mailed by Election Day unless their postmarks or other evidence indicated that they weren’t.

Neither Landry nor the other attorneys general identify the nefarious actors they say might have committed voter fraud. 

In his brief, Landry cites older incidents of voter fraud in previous elections across the country, most of which affected local races. He cites one federal election affected by fraud, the notorious 2018 North Carolina congressional race in which Republicans cast nearly a thousand fraudulent ballots for evangelical minister Mark Harris. The state election board called for a new race before certifying the results. In addition to citing the North Carolina case, Landry alleges that election officials in Pennsylvania stopped some poll watchers from counting some ballots.

The defendants in the Pennsylvania case include state Commonwealth Secretary Kathy Boockvar, the state Democratic Party and Pennsylvania’s numerous county election boards. Aside from pointing out the Republicans’ lack of evidence, they argue that even if the Supreme Court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, Biden would still win Pennsylvania.

“President-elect Biden’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania is orders of magnitude greater than the total number of ballots petitioners challenge,” Boockvar, a Democrat, said in her response. “Nor can the challenged ballots change the result of any other federal race.”

Biden defeated Trump by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania. The certified results show that of the roughly 6.9 million votes cast there, the individual counties reported a collective 9,428 mail-in ballots during the three-day period at issue, according to the defendants’ court filings. 

Pennsylvania officials also say the lawsuit is moot because Pennsylvania certified its election results Nov. 25.

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Wesley Muller
Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.