This decision came following a Nov. 18 runoff election where Democrat candidate Henry Whitehorn emerged victorious against Republican opponent John Nickelson, winning by just one vote, KTAL NBC 6 reports.
Bleich, serving as Judge "ad hoc" for the First Judicial District Court, explained in his ruling that because the runoff election ended in a one-vote difference, “It was proven beyond any doubt that there were at least 11 illegal votes cast and counted.”
Thus, it “is legally impossible to know what the true vote should have been.”
A recount took place shortly after the Nov. 18 election, with the final margin being the same yet again after both candidates gained three votes. Nickelson, however, had a request for a hand recount denied by the Board of Election Supervisors over "time restraints," according to the outlet.
Nickelson promptly filed a lawsuit to both contest the results and call for a special election. The Republican candidate charged that the process had been rushed, and that illegal votes had been counted in the election.
Numerous people were discovered to have voted both in person and by mail, according to KTAL NBC 6.
“The unofficial results of the sheriff race between me and my opponent indicated a one-vote margin out of more than 43,000 votes,” Nickelson said in a media release put out after the Nov. 18 election. “That’s something that hasn’t happened as far as we can tell in more than a century in this country, it’s truly unprecedented.”
Whitehorn had argued in a brief submitted to the First Judicial District Court: “The judiciary should not decide elections. Louisiana courts have made it clear that the results of an election are to be disturbed only under extraordinary circumstances where a plaintiff introduces compelling evidence that is sufficient to change the result in the election.”
Bleich justified his ruling to bring a new election by pointing to an existing statute in Louisiana state law that pertinently states: "A. If the trial judge in an action contesting an election determines that: (1) it is impossible to determine the result of election, or (2) the number of qualified voters who were denied the right to vote by the election officials was sufficient to change the result in the election, if they had been allowed to vote, or (3) the number of unqualified voters who were allowed to vote by the election officials was sufficient to change the result of the election if they had not been allowed to vote ... the judge may render a final judgment declaring the election void and ordering a new primary or general election for all the candidates..."
Initially, four judges recused themselves from the case because they reportedly were friends with Nickelson. The Louisiana Supreme Court eventually put Bleich on the case.
Whitehorn's team is expected to appeal Bleich's ruling.
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