Phil Waldron, the retired Army colonel who promoted an anti-democracy PowerPoint referenced in the material Mark Meadows turned over to the committee investigating Jan. 6, addressed a Louisiana voting commission this week. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the election fraud conspiracy theorist was welcomed as an “expert,” and that his 90-minute address to the body included a suggestion that the commission should start counting paper ballots by hand.
The Louisiana Voting System Commission is leading the state’s efforts to update its voting system, so touting the expertise of someone who has appeared alongside pillow kingpin and election crank Mike Lindell is more than a little concerning. When introducing Waldron on Tuesday, Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said that many members of the audience were part of his “fan club.”
Waldron pushed the idea that Louisiana shouldn’t use “black box” voting machines and electronic vote counters, recommending the state hand count every single ballot — a daunting task considering Louisianans cast more than three million ballots in 2020. Currently, most voters fill out a ballot by hand that the state tallies electronically with a paperless “direct recording electronic” voting machine. Many states have already shifted away from using that kind of system because without a paper record, there is no way to double-check votes were recorded accurately. Secretary of State Ardoin, Governor John Bel Edwards, and Republican lawmakers agreed this summer to overhaul how the state selects a new voting system, according to the Associated Press.
“I love the fresh ideas you bring to the table and the innovative thoughts that you bring and the work that you’ve done,” Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt said at the commission’s meeting, praising Waldron. But even though she was a fan, she was still skeptical of his proposal to hand count every ballot. “When you’re tallying it’s just easy to make mistakes, especially if you have 33 different races on the ballot,” Hewitt said. “It’s kind of mind-boggling to me.”
Not only did Waldron propose hand counting votes, he suggested that the state should scan images of ballots and post them online, giving voters a QR or bar code they could use to double-check that their votes were tallied correctly. He also advocated for streaming the counting of ballots online.
Waldron’s speech and efforts are just part of a growing conservative movement to gain control over how elections are administered, thanks to Trump’s frequent, baseless claims that voter fraud is a widespread issue. Many are concerned that positioning Trump loyalists on election commissions throughout the country would make it easier for Republicans to overturn results they don’t like.
Waldron last week told the Post that the he had been to the White House multiple times after the 2020 election and spoke with Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on “maybe eight to 10” occasions, including in the Oval Office. He also admitted to circulating an anti-democracy PowerPoint titled “Election fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 JAN” that outlined options for overturning the election and keeping Trump in power. A similar PowerPoint ended up in Meadows’ email inbox, which he turned over to the House committee investigating Jan. 6. Waldron denied that he was the one who sent it to the former chief of staff, but he told The New York Times it’s possible a member of his team shared the file with Meadows. Waldron told the Post that the presentation was part of a “huge team effort” but refused to name names of the individuals responsible for its creation.
The AP recently conducted a review of every potential case of voter fraud in the battleground states Trump disputed. It found fewer than 475 cases of fraud, which would have had no bearing on the results.