The President of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Tom Schedler of Louisiana, purportedly believes that proposals in favor of automatic voter registration, which are currently being debuted in Oregon, amount to nothing more than a manipulative way of ensuring an illegal attempt among African-American Democrats to engage in widespread, politically-motivated intimidation and voter fraud.

Of course, Secretary Schedler is not telling the truth and, as such, he appears willing and perfectly content with basing his re-election campaign on bigoted, shameful, and racist tropes about African-American enfranchisement.

Last week, Schedler republished, initially without attribution, a story by a thoroughly discredited right-wing blogger, a white conservative man named Scott McKay, arguing, largely, that automatic voter registration in Louisiana, a policy embraced by Schedler’s African-American, Democratic opponent, Chris Tyson, amounted to nothing more than an opportunity for African-Americans and Democrats to promote voter fraud.

As Professor Bob Mann pointed out, Mr. McKay has an established track record of coupling his incendiary political commentary with predatory solicitations for everything from get-rich-quick schemes to bogus cures for diseases. Quoting from Mr. McKay (emphasis added by Prof. Mann):

First, you’ll struggle to find any responsible registrars of voters in Louisiana who are in actual support of automatic voter registration. Turning a voluntary system whereby the voters are responsible to maintain updated addresses with the registrars if they want to participate in the process a compulsory system where you don’t have to do any of that and the bureaucrats are all of a sudden responsible to keep track with tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of current addresses for each parish registrar’s office is neither cheap nor safe nor efficient.

Second, this is an obvious gambit by the Louisiana Democrat Party to enable voter fraud.

When you have lines on the voter rolls you know don’t represent people who will actually vote, you are free to manufacture votes out of those lines.

It’s Democrat voter fraud, old-style. When you have precincts which are uniformly Democrat and in neighborhoods where Republicans have a very difficult time recruiting poll-watchers, you can bus “voters” in on Election Day and have them fraudulently identify themselves as the “voters” who are on the rolls but either will never vote or do not exist, and no one will be able to disprove those “votes” until much later.

Clean voter rolls eliminate the opportunity for that kind of fraud. Automatically registering all the warm bodies, half of whom would never vote of their own volition and don’t even know who’s running, does nothing to promote an informed and engaged electorate and not much more to promote additional people voting unless the process is abused. And abuse of the process has a pedigree in Democrat politics – think back to all those ACORN voter registration drives which produced dead people and fictional characters being turned in as new voters by the thousands.

Conservatives understand this, and so do moderates. It’s only partisan Democrats who don’t.

And we now know Tyson is a partisan Democrat and an apologist for vote fraud. Who is running for Secretary of State where he would have the capacity to destroy the integrity of Louisiana’s electorate.

Our thanks to Tyson for his honest advocacy of dishonest and destructive policy proposals. It’s illuminating that he would do so, if disqualifying of him as a serious candidate for the office he seeks.

This is reprehensible; it is implicitly, if not expressly, racist, and Schedler should issue an immediate apology for perpetrating a false and hateful racist attack. These dishonest criticisms are certainly beneath the dignity of the office of Secretary of State, and they unwittingly demonstrate Mr. Schedler’s own deeply-entrenched racial biases, biases that should disqualify anyone seeking to be in control and command of Louisiana’s voter rolls in the 21st century.

There is absolutely no evidence for any of Mr. McKay’s assertions; instead, they are grounded in racial animus and an implicit belief in white supremacy.

In 1940, there were fewer than 900 African-American registered voters in the entire state of Louisiana, 886, to be precise. At the time, more than 300,000 African-Americans, a third of the state’s population, called Louisiana home. Now, African-Americans comprise more than 32.5% of Louisiana’s population, second only to Mississippi, and yet, Louisiana has never elected an African-American on a wholly statewide ballot in its history. P.B.S. Pinchback, the state’s first and only African-American governor, was appointed to serve for only fifteen days during Reconstruction. Other statewide positions are gerrymandered to ensure a statewide vote isn’t necessary; in the state Supreme Court, for example, there are separate elections for minority candidates.

Eighty years after Pinchback’s extraordinarily brief tenure, Kermit Parker, a young, African-American pharmacist from New Orleans ran for governor. He called for a revolutionary policy- permanent voter registration- and he lost epically, failing to capture even a single percent of the vote.

Decades later, other African-Americans decided to throw their hats in the ring; Baton Rouge lawyer Cleo Fields ran in 1995, and New Orleans-based congressman William Jefferson ran in 1999; they both failed abysmally. Mr. Fields will forever be plagued by video footage showing his acceptance of $20,000 in cash payments from the incumbent governor, Edwin Edwards, and Jefferson, with his $90,000 thawing out of his freezer, is now residing in a federal resort somewhere outside of Oakdale. Eventually, Gov. Edwards walked out of his jail cell, immediately married his girlfriend, had a son, and, once again, became a candidate for Congress. A few years later, Ray Nagin, the former Mayor of New Orleans, moved a hundred or so miles down the road to another federal penitentiary near the Texas and Arkansas border.

But these crimes were of their own making and have nothing to do with voter fraud. It’s important not to confuse the issues here.

Chris Tyson is, arguably, the most qualified candidate ever to run for Louisiana Secretary of State. He is a law professor with three degrees: a bachelor’s from Howard, a juris doctor from Georgetown, and a master’s from Harvard. He is the son of a federal judge and the husband of a medical doctor, with whom he has three young children. He is an academic respected across the country. He is young, dynamic, brilliant, and dedicated, and right now, he is up against a much older white man who, unlike Chris, has largely self-financed his campaigns. If Chris were to win this election, he would become the first African-American official ever elected on a purely statewide ballot in Louisiana history.

In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Chris a friend of mine. We first met six years ago, when we both became involved in the New Leaders Council, a non-profit organization that trains young people on how to become more effective servants in their local communities.

Secretary Schedler parroted an ugly and racist commentary on the merits of mandatory voter registration in Oregon. The truth is: As Secretary of State, our leaders on these issues, particularly in a place like Louisiana, which has been so brutalized by institutional discrimination and disenfranchisement, Mr. Schedler should unapologetically champion and celebrate the right to vote.

It is one of our most precious and important rights as American citizens, and Mr. Schedler’s cynicism and his appeals to the worst contingency of the electorate- those who care less about their votes than they do in denying others the right to vote in the first place- should, in my opinion, disqualify him from being re-elected and should certainly disqualify him as the President of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

On a final note, studies suggest that if Oregon were to implement mandatory voting- and not merely mandatory registration, it’d no longer be a blue state. Believe it or not, it’d flip and become red, which severely undermines the idea that the proposal itself is intended to manufacture Democratic victories through voter fraud. But, in Louisiana, if everyone who could vote did, in fact, vote, it’d be a deep blue state and not one run by charlatans whose public policies depend on disenfranchisement and marginalization.

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