(Image:Former Governor John McKeithern and Jim Brown)
First Assistant Kyle Ardoin ran as the acting Secretary of State, after earlier announcing that he had no intention of running for the office. He had never run as a candidate statewide and was given little chance of making the runoff. The early money was on several legislators. But surprise, surprise. Ardoin led the field of nine candidates. The real shocker was that a virtual unknown democrat, Gwen Collins-Greenup, who spent a pittance, was a close second to Ardoin.
Collins-Greenup says her support was based on traveling the state, speaking over several months in many small churches. I can tell you from my experience of running for six statewide races that you don’t come close to making a run off by shaking hands and speaking to small groups of any kind.
So what happened that got republican Ardoin and democrat Collins-Greenup facing each other in the runoff? Simple. In a race with little interest, Ardoin was the first name on the ballot with an R after his name. The same goes for Collins-Greenup. She was the first candidate with a D after her name. Here in the Bayou State, a significant number of voters ignore qualifications and vote only for a democrat or only for a republican.
Ardoin had one better. When I absentee voted, the first thing I saw on my voting machine was a notice telling me that this was the official Louisiana ballot. And the message was signed by, you guessed it, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. Then I opened my ballot and the first name to appear was, that’s right, Kyle Ardoin. And this is all legal under the Louisana Election Code. Hey, blame the game, not the player.
Now this is an important office, and perception is essential when it comes to protecting one’s right to vote and having a chief elections officer who is completely fair. So what can be done to let voters feel confident that no shenanigans might take place? Having held the office of Secretary of State for two terms, here’s a few suggestions that could help.
First, drop party labels after each candidate’s name. A strong argument can be made that the official running the elections should be neutral. We have seen in other states, particularly in Georgia, Kansas, and Florida, how the electron’s officer has been accused of being biased against candidates from the opposing party. So just put all candidates on an equal footing and hope that voters will take the time to look over qualifications rather than political party tags.
Second, don’t list candidates in alphabetical order. Draw straws to see in what order the candidates appear on the ballot. Why should a name that begins with an early alphabet letter always be listed first? Randomly rotating the names seems more fair.
Unless Kyle Ardoin forgets to print his own name on the ballot, he should coast in to an easy victory. Louisiana is a red state, and, at least for the time being, republicans rule with the exception of the current Governor. And his democratic ties will face a stern test in next year’s gubernatorial election.
There are number of issues that need addressing in the current election code, including the selection of new voting machines that are estimated to end of costing over 100 million dollars. Do we have too many elections? Should we modernize the entire voting process? The last rewriting of the Louisiana Elections Code was back in 1980 when I was first elected to this office. Perhaps it’s time to streamline and update. After all, perception of what is fair too often becomes reality.
I never vote for anyone. I always vote against. W. C. Fields
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.