Election 2020 Biden

President-elect Joe Biden speaks Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

Despite President Donald Trump’s efforts, all 50 states by Tuesday had certified the vote from the presidential election that took place nearly six weeks ago. Democratic candidate Joe Biden received 7 million more votes than the Republican incumbent.

But the main Republican voices heard on that milestone day were the three GOP members of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inauguration Ceremonies, which includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, when they voted against the resolution naming Biden as the person to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

With the exception of a few — U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, being a notable one — most Republicans won’t speak against Trump and acknowledge Biden won. About 50 courts have rejected claims of widespread voter fraud, mostly finding Trump and his allies failed to present any credible evidence.

On Monday at 11:30 a.m., Louisiana’s eight presidential electors — including Central publisher Woody Jenkins and Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta — are gathering in the Senate chamber of the State Capitol. As electors around the nation will do in their own states, they will cast their votes for president. Trump, who got more votes in Louisiana than any other politician, will receive those eight electoral votes.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the states elect the president, not the voters. All that rigmarole on Nov. 3 theoretically informs the electors, though over time Election Day results have become a direction rather than an FYI.

So, by the end of the day, the electors will say what seemingly few Republicans can bring themselves to utter: Biden won 306 electoral votes, though only needed 270 to win.

Mail ballots are at the root of Trump’s challenges and are the latest manifestation of a fight as old as the Republic that began when most states only allowed landowners to vote. After a bitter fight, by 1807 the vote was expanded to white men who paid taxes. The 15th (for Blacks), 19th (for women), and 26th (for 18-year-olds) amendments were added to the U.S. Constitution to expand suffrage.

The fight didn’t end with those expansions being added to the U.S. Constitution. Often those rights were circumscribed with legal attempts to limit those with a voice at the ballot box.

Well into the 1960s, Louisiana required paying poll taxes and passing tests before enfranchising women, Blacks, and poor Whites. Black voter registration dropped from 130,344 people in 1896 to 1,718 in 1904 after a rewritten state Constitution, which erected those Jim Crow hurdles in law, was enacted in 1900, according to a Notre Dame Law Review article.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the fight was over easing the participation process, which led in 1993 to allowing voters to register while getting a driver’s license.

Most recently, the debate circles around increasing turnout among all those newly enfranchised voters. The argument goes that voting from home allows more voters to participate than would if they had to show up at a specific time in a given location.

Mail ballots is an option in 33 states – with five holding elections completely by mail. Absentee mail balloting generally costs less. Security is ensured with special numbers linking a specific ballot package to a specific voter. Other unique identifiers include having the voter identify mother’s maiden name, plus signing the envelope in which the ballot is secreted and matching that signature with what’s on the registrar’s file.

In the 2020 presidential election Republicans claimed expanded use of the mail ballot improperly inflated tallies of Democratic supporters.

National Review columnist Andrew C. McCarthy dismissed last week what he called a dubious ask that the U.S. Supreme Court reject the electoral votes in four states because Texas didn’t like the voting mechanisms — mail ballots — those states used. He, nevertheless contended “that mail-in voting on a massive scale, favored by Democrats, creates tremendous potential for fraud."

It’s the same logic adopted by Slidell Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who as chair of Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee holds significant sway over Louisiana voting procedures. Though the pandemic-expanded use of mail ballots in the Nov. 3 and Dec. 5 elections, as ordered by a federal court, went seamlessly in Louisiana, put away any notion that the GOP-dominated Legislature will allow more voters to cast ballots by mail in the future.

“Anytime you have multiple people handling a ballot there’s the opportunity for mistakes to be made. So absentee ballots are problematic,” Hewitt said Thursday, adding that she couldn’t recall any fraud widespread enough to disrupt a statewide election.

“People, some people, not all people, but there’s a part of the population that is questioning the credibility of the election process in some states. That’s not happening in Louisiana right now and I really don’t want us to go down that path,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt would not say whether she believes Biden won the election. Neither would Rep. John Stefanski, a Crowley Republican rumored to be the next chair of the House & Governmental Affairs Committee, Hewitt’s counterpart in the lower chamber. Stefanski wouldn’t comment on those rumors, and the person who would make that selection, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, has remained mum.

Like Hewitt, Stefanski opposes expansion of mail balloting in Louisiana and stumbles around the question of whether Biden won. But it's a difficult question in a state with a vast-majority of vocal Trump supporters who believe a verdict different than the one delivered by voters on Nov. 3. And, particularly, given Republican leadership's reluctance to call an end to the election.

The usually eloquent Stefanski takes a deep breath when asked directly. “Ahhh, you know, I think, well, it is important that we exhaust and make sure that every legal vote was properly counted. And, and, I am going to reserve my opinion on that until, ah, until every single challenge has been decided and is finalized.”


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.