Caddo Sheriff’s Race Results Voided and Election Redo Ordered
Judge rules, "It defies logic in this particular case to conclude that it is possible to determine the accurate results of the runoff election."
The election results in the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s race are now void. That is the ruling by retired Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bleich. He served as an ad hoc judge in the lawsuit challenging the election results, which showed Henry Whitehorn as a one-vote winner against John Nickelson in the November 18 general election. Bleich’s ruling calls for a new runoff election.
The judge delivered a blistering assessment of the claims made by Whitehorn’s attorney Gray Sexton [both sides turned in their legal briefs, to which Bleich’s response is the ruling]. Bleich wrote:
“It defies logic in this particular case to conclude that it is possible to determine the accurate results of the runoff election, especially considering the one-vote margin.”
The judge says Just one illegal vote could have affected the outcome, instead, the court found that at least eleven votes should not have been counted.
Despite the ruling, Whitehorn’s campaign released a statement in response, in which he still claims victory and is still calling himself sheriff-elect, even after the judge voided the results. In the statement, Whitehorn says, “I won the sheriff’s race, not once but twice.” Twice refers to the partial machine-run recount last week, but not by hand as Nickelson requested. Whitehorn added, “My opponent conveniently chose to question the integrity of the election only after he lost, not once but twice.”
Caddo Parish GOP chair Louis Avallone asked what he calls an important question: “Is it more important to elect the chief law enforcement officer in Caddo Parish because of a legal technicality, or just to get it over with, or is the will of the people what’s most important?”
Immediately after Nickelson’s lawsuit trial last week in Caddo District Court, the Shreveport attorney and former city councilman recited some of the most compelling evidence in his case for a redo election. “As you all heard, just one vote separated me and Mr. Whitehorn in the election. We know that more than, two people voted twice, and that four individuals who were interdicted voted.”
Whitehorn’s statement, about the new election ruling, began with almost verbatim remarks the former Shreveport Police Chief had said, at the news conference he held the night before last week’s lawsuit court hearing. “The people of Caddo Parish have spoken, and you decided that during this time when we’re in a crime crisis you wanted a sheriff that had 40-plus years of law enforcement experience. Being a public servant is something that I have dedicated.”
But in judge Bleich’s ruling, he addresses all the claims made by Whitehorn and his attorney Gray Sexton. In summary, the judge says:
“With respect, defendant’s arguments submitted by counsel in the post-trial brief are misapplied and without merit.”
Bleich then goes on to address what he calls the so-called eleven “votes,” which he ruled were never votes at all. He concludes: These were void ab initio. It is a Latin phrase which means, “void from the beginning” and:
“Should never have been counted.” The retired justice explains that this new runoff election is necessary not only for the candidates, but also to ensure the public’s right to untainted election results.
But Whitehorn’s public statement concludes: “I am pursuing an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, and if necessary, to the Louisiana Supreme Court. But, if we are unsuccessful at getting a reversal of the district court’s decision and forced to have a special election, my faith in God and my belief in the great people of Caddo Parish assures me that, for a third time, I will win the Sheriff’s race.”
But what troubles some political observers are the final lines of Whitehorn’s post-trial brief to the judge:
“The voting was influenced by political and cultural considerations. To overturn this election promises to create tension among the electorate, likely leading to diminished confidence in the integrity of the election process. This confidence certainly will not be restored by a second election, next year. For the same office.The special election is expected to be on the Louisiana primary ballot for Saturday, March 23.