We're just six months into Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser's four-year term, but it doesn't seem too soon to start a "there he goes again" watch.
First the former Plaquemines Parish President trampled on Gov. John Bel Edwards' turf when he tried to broker a wacky $1 billion business deal with the government of Iraq, all while claiming to be Edwards' emissary. Nungesser, a Republican, was working with state GOP chair Roger Villere, and it turned out that the Democratic governor knew nothing of the effort.
During a memorable 2011 League of Women Voters forum between two candidates for lieutenant g…
Then this week, Nungesser invoked the ire of a different fellow statewide official — this time, another Republican — when he publicly cast doubt on the integrity of Louisiana elections.
According to an account in the News Star, Nungesser told the Ouachita Parish Republican Women that Democratic efforts to promote early voting are a challenge to Republicans.
"They don't have to bring them to their precinct," the report quotes Nungesser as saying. "They bring them all to one place, and if they can't find their name, they're allowed to fill out a piece of paper and vote. And if the election is not contested, that vote will count. Now they have a whole week to bus people who have no idea why they're going there but to pull a lever for someone."
Secretary of State Tom Schedler reacted angrily. He called Nungesser's comments irresponsible and "at a minimum uninformed," and said they amount to an "insult to not only my office but also our hard-working clerks of court and registrars of voters who are our trusted partners for every election."
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler has blasted recent remarks from Lt. Gov. Billy Nun…
Schedler could have gone further and noted that Nungesser's comments also insult, well, voters exercising their rights.
Early voting is perfectly legal, no matter how voters get to a given assigned central voting place or which party they favor. If Nungesser's got evidence that people who arrive by bus "have no idea why they're going there but to pull a lever for someone," he didn't share it. And even if that were true, any test on the issues would surely weed out plenty of voters who walk to their neighborhood polling stations on Election Day as well.
Provisional voting is allowed under the law, too, although as Schedler noted, Nungesser got the details wrong. In federal elections, voters whose names are not on the list can fill out paper ballots, but their votes don't count until their eligibility is verified.
During the recent legislative session, lawmakers spent way too much energy debating whether forcing students to recite a passage from the Declaration of Independence would help them understand their government (the bill ultimately died).
Perhaps lawmakers' time would have been better spent pushing a more targeted effort: civics lessons for statewide elected officials. I can think of at least one guy who'd really benefit.