Jim Beam column: Elections job is major choice

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Voters often cast ballots at polls based on candidates and issues they don’t like. In the 2016 presidential election, for example, many of them voted for former Republican President Donald Trump because they didn’t like Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Now, thanks to Trump, there are three major issues on the national and state scenes — elections, vaccines, and climate change. Trump continues to insist the 2020 election that President Joe Biden won was stolen from him, so elections are now suspect by many Americans.

Trump confused even his supporters with his medical advice about the best ways to deal with COVID-19 vaccines or by saying not to use them. So many people are now refusing to let their young children get vaccinated prior to enrollment in schools.

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As for climate change, ask the people of Morocco who experienced a devastating earthquake that has taken more than 2,100 lives. Or, how about the fires at Lahaina, Hawaii, that destroyed so much of that area and killed at least 115 people and has over 60 still missing? Or the 10,000 missing in floods in Libya?

Speaking of fires, how about the historic fires that have taken place in this state that are still causing problems? Because of the extremely high temperatures, we have experienced a widespread drought.

Louisiana on Oct. 14 is going to begin electing five statewide officials — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and state treasurer. Many legislative and local races will also be on the ballots.

Elections will be a major topic. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who has administered great elections during his term in office, isn’t running because of so much turmoil about elections.

Ardoin said he hopes 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.”

Eight candidates have qualified to run for secretary of state. Five of them are Republicans, two are Democrats and the eighth is listed as “other.” The Advocate has given voters some background on the candidates.

The Republicans are Mike Francis of Crowley, a member of the state Public Service Commission that regulates utilities; Thomas J. Kennedy III of New Orleans, a retired real estate developer; Nancy Landry, current second in command at the secretary of state’s office and a former Lafayette state representative; Speaker of the Louisiana House Clay Schexnayder of Sorrento; and Brandon Trosclair of Gonzales; a grocery store owner.

The Democrats are “Gwen” Collins-Greenup of Baton Rouge, an attorney who made the two previous runoff elections against Ardoin; and Arthur A. Morrell of New Orleans, who spent 15 years as Orleans Parish’s elections chief and 23 years in the state House of Representatives.

Amanda Smith-Jennings of West Monroe is listed as “other” on the ballot but The Advocate said she is a paralegal who identifies as a member of the “conservative party.”

Schexnayder, Landry, and Francis all say Louisiana’s election security is already strong and oppose conservative activists who want to return to the use of paper ballots. However, Landry wouldn’t say for certain whether the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

Morrell said he likes the state’s current voting machines and he would consult with local officials before making changes. The Advocate said independent auditors have determined Louisiana’s elections are safely run and local election officials don’t want to return to paper ballots.

Kennedy said the state needs new voting machines like those used in other states that can scan paper ballots. The newspaper said most states also have ballot marking devices with a touch screen.

Collins-Greenup said new machines with a paper record are a top priority. She said she would expand early voting and increase voter participation by bringing machines to schools and community centers to teach people how they work.

Trosclair and Smith-Jennings both said there has been widespread election fraud and they want to return to paper ballots.

Having covered  Louisiana elections for nearly 63 years, there is no question in my mind that Louisiana has one of the top five election systems in the country. There has been no major election fraud here or elsewhere.

Landry apparently doesn’t want to offend Trump supporters by saying she wasn’t certain the 2020 election was stolen from him, which clearly isn’t true. Trosclair and Smith-Jennings are definitely conspiracy believers, and that is dangerous in the secretary of state’s office.

Vote carefully on this one because the secretary of state’s job is one of Louisiana’s more important statewide offices.


Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than six decades. Contact him at 337-515-8871 or jim.beam.press@gmail.com.