As the nation suffered through a dayslong wait for the results of the presidential race, Louisiana voters could at least take comfort in a dearth of drama and a quick conclusion.
Unlike in some swing states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona, Louisiana’s votes — early, absentee and Election Day — were in and counted Tuesday night, a little later than usual but by hours, not days.
One reason was a little-noticed bipartisan bill, authored by Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell and signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, from the recent special legislative session. It allowed the processing of mailed-in ballots to begin four days ahead of Election Day, which gave local officials some breathing room as they processed an unprecedented 168,477 absentee votes, on top of a whopping 817,957 votes cast in person during the extended early voting period.
The bill was an example of the good things that can happen when election rules are written with the public, not one political side or the other, in mind. That’s not what happened in some contested states where Republicans prevented processing from beginning until Tuesday, and we all saw the results.
Unfortunately, this spirit of bipartisanship was often missing in the run-up to the big election. Ahead of the summer presidential primary, a proposal to expand absentee voting for people with pandemic-related concerns — backed by both Edwards and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin — was shot down by Legislative Republicans in Hewitt’s Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee, who cited unfounded, alarmist claims of likely voter fraud. So the list of permissible COVID-19 related excuses was pared back to exclude concern over exposure to the coronavirus.
Even that didn’t fly with GOP lawmakers, and a chastened Ardoin, for the big fall election. They tried to restrict absentee voting — which is more popular with Democrats than Republicans and, not surprisingly, the subject of President Donald Trump’s wrath — even more this time around. Edwards refused to go along and the whole matter wound up in court, where a federal judge ordered the reinstatement of the summer rules.
We believe voters with valid health concerns should have been given more options, but were relieved that the absentee voting that did happen and the expanded early voting went smoothly.
That doesn’t mean the election came off perfectly. There were reports Tuesday of glitches with how the state’s outdated machines recorded some votes. Ardoin called the problem “intermittent,” but one botched vote is too many. Ardoin’s attempt to purchase new voting machines, long delayed by bid problems, needs to be a front-burner priority.
In the end, though, his office and its local counterparts ran a clean, efficient election. And that benefited all the state’s voters, no matter which candidates they backed.