Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser obviously hasn’t read the law on early voting. Judging by his errant comments on that topic recently, he also isn’t familiar with the old adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”
Holding his tongue is not in Nungesser’s nature. Indeed, one of his sometimes endearing qualities is his willingness to speak directly from the heart, with great passion if not always great eloquence, as he did during the BP oil spill. Unfortunately for Nungesser, he also has a tendency to bypass the filter between his brain and his mouth. When it comes to offering an opinion, his motto is “Ready, fire, aim.”
Such was the case earlier this month when Nungesser addressed a Republican women’s group in Ouachita Parish. No doubt confident that he was in friendly territory, Nungesser let loose on Democrats for their GOTV efforts during early voting.
“They don't have to bring them to their precinct,” Nungesser said. “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.”
That’s a mouthful, even for Nungesser. He managed to insult not just Democrats but all Louisiana clerks of court and registrars of voters, Secretary of State Tom Schedler (who, incidentally, is also a Republican), all voters who need a ride to the polls, and all election workers.
Schedler, who is the state’s top elections official, called Nungesser’s comments “irresponsible” and “uninformed.” He noted that Louisiana actually has a “nationally recognized election process” and went on to set the record straight.
State law requires early voters to go to their local Registrar of Voters Office or an approved early voting site, show a proper I.D. and be in the voter registration data base in order to vote early.
“If they are not a registered voter, the process for voting on a machine does not move forward,” Schedler said. “Louisiana does allow for provisional voting in federal elections, which allows voters to cast a conditional paper ballot if questions arise as to their eligibility. But make no mistake, by law, these votes are not counted until the voter is proven to be eligible, not before.”
Nungesser later apologized to Schedler and said his remarks were taken out of context. He said he was “not trying to discredit the Secretary of State or his staff's handling of our elections in any way. I think Secretary Schedler does a great job.”
Schedler does do a great job. One reason why is because he doesn’t go around mindlessly kicking over political hornets' nests. More often than not, he keeps his mouth shut — and no one thinks him a fool for it.
Nungesser could learn a lot from him.