As if the Mike Yenni sexting scandal weren't embarrassing enough for Jefferson Parish voters, now the feds have been notified that parish Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco set up a special VIP voting machine in his private conference room during early voting week.
DiMarco told WWL-TV's Paul Murphy the private voting machine was "not a big issue," but the U.S. Attorney's Office and Secretary of State Tom Schedler begged to differ. Louisiana law expressly states, "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."
What part of that sentence does DiMarco not understand?
Maybe it's a coincidence, but DiMarco also is a close friend and top supporter of embattled Parish President Yenni. DiMarco co-chaired Yenni's transition team when Yenni was elected Kenner mayor in 2010 — and he was one of only five people on Yenni's transition team a year ago when Yenni was elected parish president. And only weeks ago, in early October, Yenni appointed DiMarco to the Finance Authority of Jefferson Parish — representing the parish president.
All of which adds a suspicious dimension to the ongoing drama over the parish president's sexting scandal and the mounting effort to recall him. As Jefferson's registrar of voters, DiMarco is charged under state law with verifying — or disqualifying — signatures on the Recall Yenni petition.
Interestingly, DiMarco's friendship with Yenni may have led to the discovery of the private voting machine.
On Oct. 25, the first day of early voting, Recall Yenni leader Rob Evans set up shop in the parking lot outside the parish office building in Elmwood, seeking signatures on the recall petition from early voters who queued up inside. At some point, DiMarco confronted Evans and told him he needed to be 600 feet from the building. Evans refused, citing a 1990s Louisiana Supreme Court ruling that said 100 feet was far enough. A cellphone video captured the tense exchange.
Later, when Evans went inside to talk to DiMarco, an assistant registrar told Evans he could vote early on the private machine. An attorney, Evans couldn't believe what he had just heard. He accepted the offer and later got a photo of the machine. He also called the feds.
Meanwhile, parish voters, some of them senior citizens using walkers — stood in line for an hour or longer waiting to vote.
Schedler's office got wind of the federal complaint and immediately seized the machine and voter signature book. Both will be kept under guard until Nov. 8. It will be interesting to see who got to use that machine.
In a letter to DiMarco, Schedler wrote that the seizure was "necessary to preserve the transparency and integrity of early voting and to promote confidence within the general public regarding the voting process." A staffer in Schedler's office added, "We have never heard of such a setup."
Borrowing a page from his pal Yenni, DiMarco blithely told Murphy the VIP voting machine was "really a convenience for those whose time is, for lack of a better word, maybe more valuable than others'."
I can't make this stuff up, folks.
If he has an ounce of integrity, DiMarco should either retire or recuse himself from the recall petition verification process. If not, the Parish Council should consider removing him for cause — or suspending him pending any state or federal investigations and the recall drive.
At a minimum, DiMarco's flouting of state (and perhaps federal) law during early voting — and his long, close friendship with Yenni — hardly suggest he's going to objectively review voter signatures on the recall petition.