Election contest thrown out

Published 12:30 am Tuesday, November 20, 2007

VIDALIA — The suit over the contested Concordia Parish sheriff’s race was thrown out Monday because of a lack of evidence and how Louisiana defines residence.

Attorneys for the contestant who filed the suit, Glenn Lipsey, said he plans to appeal the decision.

Click here to read the judge’s reasons for dismissing Lipsey’s contest lawsuit.

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In a 20-page written opinion, Judge Sharon Marchman addressed several of the challenged votes by name, and concluded that nine of them were improperly cast.

“This differential is not sufficient to change the results of the election,” she wrote.

Having more than one address in more than one parish does not disqualify a voter from choosing which parish they can vote in Marchman said in her ruling.

“A Louisiana citizen may legally maintain as many residences as he wishes and as his means will allow,” Marchman wrote. “A citizen cannot legally register and qualify as an elector in more than one precinct, but the choice on which one to register in is his.”

Lipsey’s attorney Brady King said he did not agree with the ruling.

“I disagree with a lot of the factual findings of the court,” King said. “There are some real issues here that need to be sorted out with folks who live in Mississippi and have contacts in Louisiana and use them to vote in Louisiana. That concerns me as a citizen.”

Another attorney for Lipsey, Andy Magoun, said he does not feel Marchman covered all of the issues in her ruling.

“We’ve got some things she didn’t address in her reasons for ruling,” he said.

Maxwell’s attorney Jack McLemore Jr. said he does not believe an appeal will be successful.

“There is no doubt in my mind that it will not hold up if they choose to appeal it because she (Marchman) was so thorough in addressing every paragraph of their petition,” McLemore said.

Maxwell released a statement Monday afternoon asking for prayers for unity.

“It’s time for this parish to begin the healing process,” he said. “We all need to try to mend the divisions and work and pray for unity.”

“I feel that Judge Marchman listened intently to the entire case and carefully weighed every bit of evidence that was presented,” he said. “It’s clear that most of the allegations in the original lawsuit against the State of Louisiana’s Secretary of State’s Office were baseless and were not supported by any true evidence.”

Much of the Lipsey team’s case was built around residency issues and whether those whose votes were challenged were residents of Concordia Parish or had claimed homestead exemption in another state.

Maxwell said many of those whose votes were thrown out were likely unaware of the law prohibiting them from voting in another state.

“Those people in question have been voting here for years and I feel as though they were not aware of the homestead exemption issue before this trial,” he said. “I don’t know that the general public was aware of it before this.”

Lipsey’s suit challenged 16 votes on grounds that the electors lived outside the parish much of the time but used a Concordia Parish address to vote. Marchman allowed eight of those votes to stand.

The suit was filed by challenger Glenn Lipsey after he lost the election by 21 votes to incumbent Sheriff Randy Maxwell.

The appeal will be filed with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Lake Charles.

Lipsey could not be reached for comment.