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Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023

So Who’s the New Sheriff?

Voting inaccuracies create ballot brouhaha

By now, you’ve no doubt heard a judge

ruled it was “proven beyond any doubt that there were at least 11 illegal votes cast and counted” and that it is “legally impossible to know what the true vote should have been” in the Nov. 18 runoff election between Henry C. Whitehorn Sr. and John Nickelson for Caddo Parish sheriff, even though there appears to have been a one-vote margin in this election for Whitehorn.

There are some who say this ruling “stole” the election from Whitehorn – including from Whitehorn himself. In a statement, Whitehorn says, “I won the sheriff’s race – not once but twice.”

But before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re dealing with the facts. The primary election results on Oct. 14 reflect Nickelson receiving more votes than Whitehorn, with Nickelson receiving 4,664 more votes. By any objective analysis, this October election could not be considered a “win” for Whitehorn since he received far fewer votes than Nickelson.

As to the Nov. 18 election, a court of law ruled earlier this month that it is “legally impossible to know what the true vote should have been.” So, here again, the result of the November election could not be considered a “win” for Whitehorn insofar as the court declared the November election results void (even though Whitehorn is appealing this decision, which is his right, as a matter of law).

So, Whitehorn did not win the sheriff’s race twice. But that’s what he said – and continues to say.

Making such a sweeping, inaccurate statement is irresponsible because the impact reaches beyond the sheriff’s election itself. When Whitehorn says he’s won the sheriff’s race “not once but twice,” in addition to being untrue, the message to voters is that your vote doesn’t matter, that the will of the people was not heard and that our election process lacks the integrity to produce reliable ballot counts.

But the opposite is true. Your vote does matter (just one vote made a difference), and the people’s will was heard (so much so it was almost too close to call). Plus, the whole reason a judge ordered a new election is because of the integrity of our election laws in the first place.

Whitehorn’s statement about “winning twice” discourages voters so much so that fewer and fewer bother to go vote since, apparently, it won’t count anyway. Ironically, this only exacerbates the disenfranchisement of black voters, especially those aged 18 to 29, where just 25% feel confident their vote in any election will be counted correctly.

And being untruthful with them doesn’t help.

Then there’s a statement put out by a group called “Black Votes Matter.” They say the judge’s decision to order a new election in the sheriff’s race is part of an effort to “suppress black voters’ power and remove black candidates from office.” They say this has “been happening on local levels for years.”

This group obviously must not know much about what’s “been happening” at the local level in Caddo Parish because black voter turnout was anything but suppressed in this run-off election from November; it increased over black voter turnout in October. For the Oct. 14 election, black voter turnout in Caddo Parish was 25.3%, and for the Nov. 18 election, it was 27% (while white voter turnout was down from 36.9% in October to 31.6% in November).

The group also says the judge’s decision to order a new election is part of some ongoing scheme to remove black candidates from office. Really? We have a black district attorney and a black registrar of voters. The city of Shreveport has both a black police chief and city marshal, and the last three mayors of Shreveport have been black. Oh, and Caddo Parish voters just elected its first black tax assessor.

Maybe this group, Black Votes Matter, needs to do more research before interjecting themselves into communities where the facts don’t quite align with the story they’re telling. Here again, making inaccurate statements about this sheriff’s race and our parish will only drive honest citizens out of the democratic process, particularly black voters, who have had a history of being denied the ballot in the past and who say they are already worried about voter suppression, so why bother?

Look, at the end of the day, so to speak, here’s what it comes down to: There were some illegalities in voting, and with such illegalities present, a margin of victory of 0.00002312% is not enough to determine the will of the people.

That’s why it’s more important than ever before to let folks know your ballot is sacred in Caddo Parish, that we will protect the integrity of our elections, and that we’re only going to elect the next sheriff (or any elected official) by the number of votes – and not by the number of lies.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.


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