Court upholds judge’s ruling ordering new election in Louisiana sheriff’s race decided by one vote

A divided state appeals court has upheld a judge’s ruling ordering a new election for a Louisiana sheriff’s race that was decided by a single vote.

In a 3-2 ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport, Louisiana, said Tuesday the Republican candidate for sheriff in Caddo Parish, John Nickelson, had shown two people illegally voted twice in the Nov. 18 election and four others voted though they were ineligible to cast ballots.

The majority, additionally, found no error in the lower court judge’s determination that Nickelson could not have known about the problematic votes before election day.

“Considering the one-vote margin between the candidates, the invalidation of these six votes is alone sufficient to make it legally impossible to determine the result of the election,” Judge Jeff Robinson wrote for the majority.

Democrat Henry Whitehorn, the declared winner in the sheriff’s race, had argued that Nickelson had not challenged the votes in time. Whitehorn had also argued that Nickelson failed to establish that any of the challenged voters voted in the sheriff’s race.

Whitehorn said he planned to continue fighting in court.

“My opponent did not prove that any of these alleged irregularities caused him to lose,” he said in a statement on his campaign’s Facebook page.

Whitehorn had been declared the winner last month after topping Nickelson by the one-vote margin, from more than 43,000 ballots cast. A recount produced the same result.

In a dissenting opinion, Second Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Shonda Stone said the lower court failed to address why Nickelson could not have challenged the votes at the polls.

In a separate dissent, Judge Marcus Hunter said there was no proof that the voting irregularities were “so pervasive” they warranted tossing the election results. He added that Nickelson had failed to prove that the outcome of the election would have been different without the irregularities.

“In a time where elections and election integrity are increasingly coming under heavy bipartisan fire, this Court should be careful to safeguard, and when necessary, refrain from tossing the accelerant of every closely contested election to the log pile of controversy, further stoking such divisive flames,” he wrote.

The Caddo Parish sheriff’s race is the country’s second local election this year in which a judge has voided the result. Last month, a judge ordered a redo of a Democratic mayoral Primary in Connecticut’s largest city due to possible ballot stuffing, a case that fueled conspiracy theories pushed on social media.

The topic of election integrity has also been at the forefront of national politics after former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 presidential election.

The one-vote margin in the Caddo Parish sheriff’s race also put a spotlight on Louisiana’s recount process. It is the only state that continues to use paperless touchscreen voting machines, which do not produce an auditable paper trail that experts say is critical to ensure results are accurate.

Election officials, including Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, have reiterated that the state’s elections are secure and there are checks and balances to ensure voting integrity.

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Republished with permission from The Associated Press.




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