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Retired Army colonel who circulated election-denying PowerPoint speaks to Louisiana election commission

He claimed Louisiana's electoral system was "vulnerable to fake voters, fake ballots" and "fake counts."

Phil Waldron, the retired Army colonel who circulated a PowerPoint offering suggestions for how to overturn the 2020 election, spoke for roughly 90 minutes at a Louisiana election commission hearing earlier this week.

Waldron presented to the commission, which is tasked with updating the state's voting system, a separate PowerPoint claiming Louisiana's electoral system was "vulnerable to fake voters, fake ballots" and "fake counts." He lamented "black box" voting machines and urged the 13-member Voting System Commission to instead implement a system reliant purely on hand-counting ballots. Several commission members said that such a system would be difficult to implement and would elongate the vote-reporting process.

Voter fraud is extremely rare. An Associated Press investigation into the 2020 election in contested swing states found fewer than 500 questionable votes, far below the margin of victory in each state.

His presentation before the commission was first reported by The Washington Post.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the commission chair and a Republican, announced Waldron's invitation last month. Waldron's involvement with the pre-Jan. 6 PowerPoint came under scrutiny earlier this month after former President Donald Trump's ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows submitted a similar slide deck to the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot.

Introducing Waldron on Tuesday, Ardoin alluded to the prominent election denier's "fan club" being in attendance and audience members clapped and cheered for Waldron. John Tobler, a spokesman for Ardoin, told NBC News in a statement that "a group of citizens" requested Waldron be invited to speak before the panel.

"We elected to offer" Waldron and other witnesses "an opportunity to address the commission and take follow-up questions from the members," Tobler said.

Retired Col. Phil Waldron poses for a photo at his distillery in Dripping Springs, Texas, on Dec. 2, 2021.
Retired Col. Phil Waldron poses for a photo at his distillery in Dripping Springs, Texas, on Dec. 2, 2021.Aram Roston / Reuters

Waldron's role in advancing pro-Trump election conspiracies has garnered new attention after Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chair of the Jan. 6 committee, referred to an email on Jan. 5 about a 38-page PowerPoint briefing titled "Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for JAN 6," in a letter last week to Meadows.

The title matched a 36-page PowerPoint document that circulated online soon after. Though that document's exact origins are unknown, it appeared to have first surfaced online in full in early January. Waldron has said he contributed to the document and briefed congressional lawmakers on it ahead of Jan. 6, telling The Washington Post that he visited the White House following Trump's loss.

The presentation includes baseless assertions that China and Venezuela took control of the U.S. electoral system and that there was widespread voter fraud in eight states. Other slides suggested a plan for the Trump administration to "declare electronic voting in all states invalid," call a national emergency and seize ballots. The slide deck also called for then-Vice President Mike Pence to seat alternate electors from swing states Trump lost, reject electors from those states or delay the formal count on Jan. 6 — the date the Constitution sets out for the official counting of Electoral College votes, a step that affirms a president-elect's victory.

Constitutional scholars have said there was no legal basis for Pence to intervene, while a number of ballot recounts and the courts have repeatedly affirmed Biden's win last fall and haven't turned up any evidence of widespread fraud.

The presentation was one of a handful of documents outlining a rationale for overturning the election or disregarding the results that were written and circulated by Trump allies or by people sympathetic to his baseless claims of systemic voter fraud.

Meadows' lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, told The New York Times and The Washington Post that Meadows submitted the document to the committee because "it was not privileged," adding Meadows received the document and did nothing with it.

Terwilliger did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News. It is not yet clear who sent the presentation to Meadows.