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Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Katherine Harris of Louisiana?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 16, 2008 at 6:12 PM

click to enlarge katherineharris.jpg

 Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Darden, a Republican, has cleared Jefferson Parish Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco, also a Republican, of any wrongdoing in connection with a GOP party-switch mailer sent to 12,000 West Bank Democratic and Independent voters asking them to join the Republican Party.


The mailer went out with DiMarco’s office listed as the return address — or sender — which could easily give voters the impression that the parish registrar was asking them to switch parties. That’s a clear violation of the law, which requires political neutrality by registrars. The mailer prompted an immediate and understandable complaint from Democrats.


“It was certainly sloppy in terms of the proofreading,” Dardenne told The Times-Picayune, after conducting what the paper called “a short investigation.” Dardenne added: “It certainly wasn’t criminal.”


Well, maybe not, but there’s still the matter of consequences for this blatantly misleading piece of political mail. The folks who did send out the recruitment mailer — several Jefferson Parish officials and their “design company” — have supposedly “taken responsibility,” according to Dardenne.


What does that mean?


Apparently, nothing.


I have a better idea. In order to completely absolve DiMarco’s office of even the appearance of impropriety in this matter, and to restore public confidence in the registrar’s neutrality, all returned party-switch notices should be discarded by DiMarco’s office. Then, the “responsible” Jefferson Parish politicos and their “design team” — who collectively have “taken responsibility” for this snafu — can do the “responsible” thing and start over … at their own expense … with a proper return address that clearly shows who sent the mailer.


Anything short of that is a whitewash.


Jay Dardenne ran for Secretary of State in 2006 touting his credentials as a white-hat reformer. As the chief elections officer of the state of Louisiana, he is supposed to put party considerations aside in the interest of fairness and integrity. Sometimes, and this is one of those times, a person charged with that level of responsibility must act affirmatively to safeguard the electoral process.


If Dardenne wants to avoid becoming the Katherine Harris of Louisiana, he should immediately insist that DiMarco toss any returned party-switch postcards.


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