Authorities arrested Amite City Councilman Emanuel Zanders III Tuesday in connection to alleged election fraud.

Attorney General Jeff Landry announced Wednesday as part of an election integrity update that his office, as well as investigators from Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin’s office, had arrested Zanders on eight counts of alleged election fraud. The attorney general and secretary of state’s offices opened the joint-investigation in October after being notified by the Tangipahoa Parish Registrar of Voters about concerns that voter registration forms were being turned in with fraudulent address information.

“Multiple witness statements indicate that Councilman Zanders purposely manipulated citizens into legally changing their voter registration,” Landry said. “They would sign the registration forms, and then he would fill out the fraudulent address after the fact.”

There is also evidence that Councilman Zanders submitted a voter registration application on behalf of a citizen using his own address, Landry added.

“Our investigation discovered that this resident had no knowledge of this application, did not complete the application, and then the signature on application was not theirs,” he said.

Ardoin said there are steep consequences for violating the state’s election laws, including hefty fines and possible jail time.

“If Councilman Zanders is convicted of an offense under La. R.S. 1461.2, then it is a felony offense,” Press Secretary Cory Dennis said. “By law, in order to be disqualified from holding the position then he must be convicted of the felony offense and have exhausted all legal remedies.”

Tangipahoa Parish Clerk of Court Gary Stanga could not comment on the investigation, but he explained what happens to the District 3 Council position while the investigation remains ongoing.

“He is innocent until proven guilty, so he holds his seat until he has his day in court,” Stanga said, adding that suspended leave would be up to the Amite Council to decide.

Amite Mayor Walter Daniels declined comment about the situation, as well as about what happens to Zanders’ position while the investigation remains ongoing.

“Few things are more American than our right to vote and with that comes the mandate for open, transparent and fair elections,” Landry said.

He stressed that every legal voter gets only one legal vote to cast, no more, and that distorting this process was breaking the law and betraying fellow citizens.

Among the information agents reviewed were voter registration forms where six people were registered at 506 S. Second St., and 16 people registered at 610 S. Second St. Both are vacant lots in Amite City’s District 3.

Zanders was re-elected after running as the District 3 incumbent against Claire Bel in the Dec. 5 election.

He defeated Bel by 19 votes, according to the Secretary of State’s election results post-election.

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