The Ends Justify the Means?
When just one vote really matters
By now, you have heard the Louisiana Supreme Court denied Henry C. Whitehorn Sr.’s request for an appeal of the new election ordered by retired Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bleich, which the Second Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently affirmed. Both sheriff candidates issued written public statements following the decision of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
John Nickelson said it was a “victory for democracy in Caddo Parish.” After all, Justice Crichton wrote in his concurring opinion (regarding the denial of Whitehorn’s appeal) that “(w)hen a court is presented with proven errors, even when no candidate is responsible for those errors, it is compelled to act and uphold our Election Code.” Justice Genovese also authored a concurring opinion in the denial of the appeal and wrote that “this election was not a free and fair election.”
Pretty straightforward language, right?
And it provides a sense of hope that we have remained, as John Adams once wrote, “a nation of laws and not of men.” This is the principle, of course, that government should be based on clearly written laws, consented to by those to be governed by them, and not on the unpredictable will of one man or even a few men.
But that doesn’t make much sense to Whitehorn, apparently, or at least in this matter because, in his statement following the Louisiana Supreme Court decision, Whitehorn says a vote is a vote is a vote, so to speak. He says, “The person with the most votes wins, even if that’s by a thousand or one vote.”
Well, first of all, that’s terribly disingenuous because if there was a margin of a thousand votes here, the district court judge would likely have never ordered a new election, and that assumes Nickelson would have even contested the election results in the first place (if it were a thousand-vote margin instead of a single-vote margin).
Second and most concerning is Whitehorn’s argument that the “ends justify the means” or the notion that no matter how a candidate came to receive more votes on election day (even if illegally), he should be declared the winner.
But he’s looking at it all wrong. Justice Genovese seemingly is answering Whitehorn directly in his concurring opinion, saying that “(i)n a two-candidate race, the mere fact that one candidate ends up with one or more votes than his opponent, without regard or consideration given to proven fraud and unqualified voters casting ballots, does not equate to a just and fair election under our law and jurisprudence. A just and fair election can only be had when one candidate wins by a majority vote of qualified electors.”
Some may say that Whitehorn’s claim he would not have contested the election results if the vote count reflected one less vote for him than Nickelson is not what Whitehorn really believes, and that he’s just posturing; it’s just campaign rhetoric. Some might also say, “C’mon, you know he doesn’t believe that a candidate should win an election without regard to whether the votes cast for that candidate were legal ones.”
OK. I got you. But how would we ever be sure when his public statements indicate the opposite?
Aside from the concern that Whitehorn believes the “ends justify the means,” his public statement also expresses disdain for our judiciary, saying that Nickelson was being “misleading.” The implication is that the judges were misled – from the district to the appellate to the Louisiana Supreme Court – and they were too inept to figure it out.
But how can anyone applying to be the chief law enforcement officer in our parish insult the courts and not respect the rule of law enough to take a stand and ensure our Election Code is upheld, whether that is for 1,000 votes or just a single vote, is beyond me.
And yes, Mr. Whitehorn, one vote matters. You may say you wouldn’t have fought over one little vote in this election if the roles had been reversed, and you would have conceded the election despite the illegalities now confirmed by the courts.
But you see, the people need a sheriff who will fight for us in small matters and in large ones. As it says in Luke 16: 10-14, “Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things.”
And with a $40 million budget, a 1,500-bed correctional center, 650 employees, almost 7,000 “911” calls, and the safety and security of 237,000 residents in the balance, a new sheriff who doesn’t sweat that one little vote cast illegally in a one-vote margin election, but would instead look the other way, may just not be the new sheriff we need at all.
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 email@example.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.