New election ordered in Louisiana sheriffs race won by one vote | US news #election #ordered #Louisiana #sheriffs #race #won #vote #news

A Democratic politician who recently won a Louisiana sheriff’s election over a Republican candidate by a single vote has been ordered to run the race again after a judge determined that a handful of illicitly cast ballots muddied up the results.

The Democratic candidate, Henry Whitehorn, defeated his Republican opponent John Nickelson in an election to be the next sheriff of north-western Louisiana’s Caddo parish on 18 November 2023 by a count of 21,621 votes to 21,620. A 27 November recount gave each candidate an additional three votes, but Whitehorn preserved his minimal advantage in the contest to succeed a retiring Republican incumbent.

Nickelson subsequently filed a lawsuit against Whitehorn and elections officials that challenged the validity of the result. The lawsuit demanded that the election be awarded to Nickelson or held again.

During the subsequent proceedings, the retired and specially appointed judge Joe Bleich found that at least 11 votes had been illegally cast and counted. A state official at one point testified about an example of those votes, involving a pair of constituents who had twice cast their ballots in the race.

The pair voted during the early period ahead of the election, according to the official’s testimony. And, the official said, they also voted on election day itself.

It would be illegal for those people to be compelled to reveal for whom they voted so that it could be determined whether their four combined ballots made a definitive difference in the tight margin, Bleich’s ruling said. The ruling explained that those votes had “a constitutional guarantee of secrecy”.

Ultimately, Bleich, who is registered as a political independent, ruled Tuesday that the contest should be held again. The earliest that rerun can occur is 23 March, the local news outlet KTBS.com reported.

Bleich’s ruling came in one of at least two almost incomprehensibly close local political elections reported in the US in the last few weeks. On 17 November, a coin flip decided the winner of the mayor’s race in Monroe, North Carolina.

The two candidates in that case had received the exact same number of votes in a race held on 7 November, triggering a coin toss tiebreaker that made local businessman Robert Burns Monroe’s mayor-elect. Burns and his opponent accepted the results of the coin flip as valid.

Whitehorn has asked a state appellate court to reverse Bleich’s ruling. He said he is prepared to argue his case all the way up to the Louisiana supreme court if necessary.

“I was always taught that the person with the most votes wins, even if that’s by a thousand votes or by one vote,” Whitehorn said in a statement reported by KTBS. “But it seems as though the rules of the game are different depending on who the players are.

“I won the sheriff’s race – not once but twice. My opponent conveniently chose to question the integrity of the election only after he lost, not once but twice. In elections, you should not be given a redo simply because you are unhappy with the results.”

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The lead attorney for Nickelson, Scott Sternberg, said in his own statement that “it’s a very rare thing” for an election to be challenged.

“You’ve got to have rock-solid evidence, and we thought we had that here,” Sternberg said. “Fortunately, the court agreed.”

“Based just on a small sample, the judge found at least 11 unlawful votes, but that there could be many more. The ruling ensures that Caddo parish will have a sheriff’s race that is decided by legal and lawful votes, and we expect that’s exactly what will happen in March.”

Louisiana attorney and writer Royal Alexander told the Shreveport Times of Louisiana that Bleich’s ruling was not a surprise to him.

“Louisiana law clearly allows for a new election to be ordered when the outcome of an election cannot be determined,” Alexander said to the Times. “Judge Bleich pointed to 11 defective votes, which obviously exceed [the] 1-vote margin of victory.”

Most of Shreveport – Louisiana’s third largest city, behind New Orleans and Baton Rouge – sits within Caddo. In Caddo, the sheriff oversees the law enforcement agency that patrols streets in unincorporated areas, operates the jail and provides security at the local state courthouses.

#election #ordered #Louisiana #sheriffs #race #won #vote #news

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