Lawsuit Claims Election Violations, Irregularities in Caddo Sheriff’s Race
Despite a recount on Monday that confirmed the same single vote victory in the Caddo Sheriff's race, the loser is headed to court for a legal challenge.
The Republican candidate who lost the Caddo Parish Sheriff race by a single vote [out of 43,247 total votes] is making some serious claims in his efforts to overturn the results. John Nickelson filed a lawsuit in Caddo District Court after the election recount concluded with the same one-vote difference on Monday [November 27], after both candidates received three additional votes. Nickelson’s petition describes a litany of issues arising from the Saturday, November 18 runoff election; issues that he contends robbed him of becoming the next sheriff of Caddo Parish, instead of Democrat Henry Whitehorn. “What we discovered, Jeff, was that many ballots, absentee ballots, which the registrar of voters accepted and counted in this election, were either not signed by a voter at all, or were not witnessed at all.”
Nickelson says his lawsuit spells out what he calls “a large number of serious irregularities.” One example he cites is that two people voted twice. Another is the number of people who turned out to vote but allegedly were not permitted to do so. “Finally, there is a law directed to prevent vote harvesting,” Nickelson explains, “which says that no witness to an absentee ballot can witness more than one ballot of a non-immediate family member. And we found instances of individuals witnessing many ballots of non-immediate family members. So, all those problems we uncovered in just a very short amount of time.”
Nickelson’s lawsuit asks the judge to either declare a winner based on a corrected count of ballots or call for a new election. Some observers may consider an unsigned or unwitnessed absentee ballot as a mere technicality.
But Nickelson explains why such requirements are so important. “If we allow absentee ballots to be counted, that are not signed at all, or are not witnessed,” Nickelson argues, “we really have a problem that strikes at the core of the integrity of the process. Think about it this way Jeff, if you went on election day to go vote and you refuse to show a driver’s license, or you refused to sign into the book that we all have to sign when we vote, you wouldn’t be permitted to vote.”
On a story of this kind, seeking the perspective of all sides is critical in the reporting process. We reached out for an interview with the Secretary of State in Louisiana. But the response was a familiar answer with legal stories of this kind, that they cannot speak about a pending legal matter. Others have not responded at this time. Such is the case when I tried to speak with Dale Sibley, the Caddo Parish registrar of voters. And it is the exact same scenario I found in trying to reach Caddo Parish Clerk of Court Mike Spence.
Even the now sheriff-elect Henry Whitehorn was very cautious about making any statements when he spoke with us immediately after the recount on Monday. And for this story, I am still awaiting a response from Mr. Whitehorn, as well.
Caddo District Court judge Ramone Lafitte has recused himself from the case, saying he is a friend of one of the parties involved in the dispute. Instead, Brady O’Callaghan has been assigned as the judge, with a hearing on Nickelson’s lawsuit at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday [November 30].