Unifying parish may be hardest part of job

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My parents have a house in Oxford. I still have a room in their house. I still have clothes in their house. I still have a key to their house. And every once in a while, mail for me still goes to their house.

And though I still care about what happens in my hometown and who its leaders are, I don’t intend to vote in the next Oxford mayoral election.

I’m registered to vote in Natchez — the town I’ve lived in for four years — and I’ll vote here. That seems right.

Email newsletter signup

So it baffles me to hear the details of the Glenn Lipsey vs. Randy Maxwell saga that’s been ongoing in Concordia Parish since October.

I’m certainly no scholar of Louisiana law. In fact, I was completely confused in my first few weeks in town when I heard words like “parish” and “police jury.”

The ways of Louisiana are still a bit foreign to me.

But, how can someone be a Natchez resident for property tax purposes, yet still vote in Louisiana?

According to the law — as interpreted by a lower court judge, then the court of appeals — it doesn’t matter where you live, as long as you store some clothing, have a key and register in the parish you wish to vote in.

And to many longtime Louisiana residents, this is just the way it is.

That’s one of the reasons Glenn Lipsey and his legal team have pushed the election contest so far.

The end of the road is near, but the door isn’t shut yet. Lipsey appealed to the state Supreme Court Monday, and he has one last hope.

He needs a policymaker. If one of the Supreme Court justices reads the case and raises an eyebrow, the court may choose to hear the case.

Lipsey is seeking a judge who sees a gap in the existing law and opts to flesh it out a bit.

The premise is one that’s determined nearly every law in our nation’s history.

As Lipsey’s lawyer Andy Magoun says, they’ve hung their hat on the idea that someone declaring homestead exemption in Mississippi shouldn’t be allowed to vote in another state.

That idea is solid. It jives with the electoral system our country runs on.

And Magoun and Lipsey believe it’s right.

By Monday night Magoun had all but given up on Lipsey winning the election. He has said more than once now that this is a matter of principle.

Sure, the team still wants Lipsey in office, but they are also fighting a bigger cause.

Louisiana is notorious for corruption. And to many of us living across the muddy waters, the laws in play in this case are part of the problem.

The seven justices on the Supreme Court have a chance to see that and change it.

No one knows what they’ll decide, but it’s been good to watch the appeal system being used. Lipsey has pushed his case as far as it can go and tested all the legal waters.

It’s going to cost him, but it might later benefit the entire state of Louisiana.

Regardless of the results, the long election season is likely to be over soon. If the court agrees to hear Lipsey’s case, they should move quickly in offering a verdict.

If the court passes altogether, then Maxwell wins outright.

For months now Concordia Parish has been torn over its biggest story of the year. Residents are either Maxwell supporters or Lipsey fans.

But come January, there will only be one sheriff in town.

That man will be charged with protecting the people and catching the criminals.

Either candidate is qualified to carry out the duties of the job. But after a tumultuous start to a new term, the job duties may be the easy part.

The hard part will be unifying the factions.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.finley@natchezdemocrat.com.