BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who has overseen elections in the state for the last five years, announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection this year.
In recent years, the Republican has faced increasing scrutiny while supervising an effort to replace Louisiana's outdated voting machines, which do not produce paper ballots that are critical to ensuring election results are accurate.
The ongoing process to buy new machines was thrust into the national spotlight after allegations of bid-rigging, voting machine companies claimed favoritism, and conspiracy theorists — who support former President Donald Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and unsuccessfully urged Ardoin to ditch voting machines altogether and instead rely on hand-counted paper ballots — inserted themselves into the conversation.
“I hope that Louisianans of all political persuasions will stand against the pervasive lies that have eroded trust in our elections by using conspiracies so far-fetched that they belong in a work of fiction,” Ardoin said in a statement Tuesday. “The vast majority of Louisiana’s voters know that our elections are secure and accurate, and it is shameful and outright dangerous that a small minority of vocal individuals have chosen to denigrate the hard work of our election staff and spread unproven falsehoods.”
Ardoin won a special election in 2018 after then-Secretary of State Tom Schedler resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. He was reelected in 2019. But as the end of his term nears, Ardoin told The Advocate that he wants to spend more time focusing on his family and health.
“For the last five years, I have had the blessing of serving as Louisiana’s 44th Secretary of State. In that time, we have faced unprecedented challenges including major hurricanes, a global pandemic, and lies about our election processes and procedures," Ardoin said. "Through it all, I have been able to witness the unyielding dedication of election staff across the state who worked countless late nights and weekends, sometimes putting their own needs on hold, to deliver democracy to the people of Louisiana.”
Ardoin's departure marks another major shakeup in government leadership, as there will be five vacant state office seats without an incumbent on October's ballot — the governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and insurance commissioner.
Mike Francis, a Republican who serves on the Public Service Commission, is running for Ardoin's position. Francis, who was the chairman of the Republican Party in Louisiana from 1994 to 2000, unsuccessfully ran for Secretary of State in 2006.
Also vying for the office is grocery store owner Brandon Trosclair. The Republican has aligned himself with a movement of conservative activists who believe there has been widespread fraud in Louisiana’s elections, The Advocate reports.
Louisiana House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, a Republican, is also rumored to join the race. The legislator could not be reached for immediate comment.
Under Louisiana’s “jungle” primary system, all candidates — regardless of party affiliation — will run against one another on the same ballot on Oct. 14. If no candidate tops 50% in that primary, the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election on Nov. 18.