Jim Beam column: State losing capable official

Published 6:56 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

Former Republican President Donald Trump, an admitted election denier, and others who agree with him have succeeded in causing Kyle Ardoin, an effective Louisiana GOP secretary of state, to give up his office. Ardoin explained his reasons for not running for re-election.

“I hope that Louisianans of all political persuasions will stand against the pervasive lies that have eroded trust in our elections by using conspiracies so far-fetched that they belong in a work of fiction,” Ardoin said.

“The vast majority of Louisiana’s voters know that our elections are secure and accurate, and it is shameful and outright dangerous that a small minority of vocal individuals have chosen to denigrate the hard work of our election staff and spread unproven falsehoods.”

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Trump continues to promote election conspiracies and said he will make it a major issue in his 2024 presidential campaign.

“I’m an election denier,” Trump  said. “You’ve got a lot of election deniers in this country and they’re not happy about what’s happened.”

Nothing has happened, of course, and The AP said there has been no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation of voting machines in the U.S. Multiple reviews in the battleground states where Trump disputed his loss also confirmed the election results were accurate.

Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, plans to run for secretary of state, according to the Gonzales Daily Citizen. Schexnayder said, “As speaker, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Secretary Ardoin and his staff. He is leaving behind one of the most secure and respected election divisions in the country …”

Ardoin oversaw a controversial stop-and-start effort to replace the state’s voting machines, which The Advocate said was complicated by the pandemic and a wave of conspiracy theories promoted by Trump supporters, who made baseless claims that the state’s elections were overtaken by fraud.

Brandon Trosclair, an Ascension Parish businessman, who has also announced for secretary of state, added to those baseless claims when he said he was “appalled by the trainwreck of political infighting and questionable ethics that has characterized the current secretary of state’s time in office. He’s had multiple chances to clean up the mess he’s made …”

The newspaper said Trosclair “has aligned himself with a movement of conservative activists who believe there has been widespread fraud in Louisiana’s elections, something that election officials and experts say is not true.”

We also haven’t seen any news about any “political infighting and questionable ethics” during Ardoin’s time in that office.

While the voting machine purchase has had its problems, it has had no impact whatsoever on the coverage and reporting of elections during Ardoin’s five years as secretary and eight as first assistant secretary.

Independent auditors have said the state’s elections are safely run. Trump won Louisiana in 2016 with 58% of the vote and Republicans now have two-thirds control of both houses of the Legislature. Republicans also have control of six of Louisiana’s seven statewide offices. Gov. John Bel Edwards is a Democrat.

Mike Francis, the District 4 representative on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, is also a secretary of state candidate.  He was re-elected to the PSC last Nov. 8 and said he isn’t going to resign from that job to run, which he said is considered part-time.

State Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, had previously decided against running, but said Ardoin’s announcement prompted him to reconsider his options, according to the Louisiana Illuminator.

“I am re-entertaining the idea,”  Ivey said. “It is a completely different landscape now.”

Now that Ardoin isn’t running, there may be other candidates. Voters need to ensure that the candidates they support don’t believe Louisiana’s elections are rigged or fraudulent, because that is simply a fabrication of their imagination.

Unfortunately, The Associated Press said the election conspiracy movement that mushroomed after the last election shows no signs of slowing down. It added that millions have been convinced that any election in which their preferred candidate loses has been somehow rigged against them.

Louisiana’s clerks of court, who administer elections in connection with the secretary of state’s office, are worried that conservative activists could successfully push for an entirely paper ballot system. Trosclair said he would replace voting machines with paper ballots.

That would definitely complicate the election process and delay the reporting of election returns for days.

Because of the growing number of election deniers in this country, Louisiana’s secretary of state race has now become one of the most important elections in state history. Voters need to reject anyone who could destroy the reputable election system that has served this state well for many years.