Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 6:14 PM
Some simple facts: Luther Scott by court documents appears to be a client of state assistance agencies, including the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Health and Hospitals. The record suggests he is sometimes homeless. He is a man who needs the public’s help.
Twice in 2009, once in 2010 Scott visited the state agencies he sued and contends that they did not offer him assistance in registering to vote. In fact, the state agencies are required to offer such assistance.
Milazzo ruled for Scott and against defendants DFCS, DHH and the Secretary of State, whose office is charged with training state agency employees to offer voter registration services. The plaintiff’s attorneys — naturally, there were many — must be paid by the defendants.
In a strict sense, the public might accept this. The law says the state “must” make voter registration available at these offices and the state did not offer that service in as robust a manner as the law directed. Perhaps they were too busy providing the services for which their offices were created. In her decision, Milazzo noted that the state has improved its voter registration performance since the suit was filed, but she will retain oversight.
But there are other factors to consider. For one, the state offices exist primarily to serve Scott and those like him by providing them with such things as nutrition and health care. The suit does not say the state agencies failed Scott in those principal efforts.
Second, in two of three visits, Scott filled out forms that asked if he needed help with voter registration. In both cases, he left those questions blank.
Third, 84 percent of people eligible to register to vote in Louisiana have registered, fourth best in the U.S. Louisiana is doing something right.
Last — this struck us as relevant — Scott was already a registered voter, having responded to a voter registration drive in 2008. He told the court he did not know he was registered, which, if he told the truth, may indicate Scott will need state agencies for a long time in order to sustain himself. He ought not undercut them.
But there are lawyers to pay, and Milazzo, appointed to the bench by our Community-Organizer-in-Chief, will say how much next month. Defendants are state agencies, so the money will come from where it always comes from: the taxpaying public.
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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.