Tuesday, June 23, 2015

LA Election Engineering, Difficult to Convict & More Difficult to Remedy

Louisiana Election Code “has some bark but barely any bite,” according to Heather Cloud, victim of election engineering in the Turkey Creek, LA Mayoral Election. Residents of Turkey Creek were required to vote twice for mayor after Bert Campbell plead guilty to Fraudulent Election Engineering, Cloud also states:

I'm willing to fight against corruption. I want it out. I want it out of Louisiana politics.

Campbell’s campaign gave mentally handicapped people $15.00 and other promises to manipulate their vote. After being picked up at their home, driven to early voting 25 miles away, the individuals were told to vote the numbers on a card specifically for Bert K. Campbell.

Campbell beat Heather Cloud in the November 4th election, 110-106.

The only true recourse for Heather Cloud was to pursue it civilly because her other options were for the participants to willingly admit their fault or the District Attorney to criminally charge those involved. Nether would actually happen. Cloud incurred $12,065.00 in court costs and $13,000 in attorney fees.  

The district court dismissed Cloud’s case holding Cloud stated no cause of action, and relying on Savage v. Edwards, the number of votes bought was not enough to change the outcome of the election although it was proven the votes were bought.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s ruling, stating that Cloud did state a cause of action, and remanded to the District Court. On remand the District Court ruled that the four people were given $15.00 to influence their vote, which is illegal in Louisiana, but the judge dismissed again for lack of authority to strike the votes and order a new election.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that the four votes were illegal, instructed the District Judge to strike the votes and to order a new election. Judge Sylvia Cooks stated,

It is time for this foolishness to stop in the state of Louisiana.

The District Judge did strike the votes and called for a new election. All costs were assessed to Campbell, and Cloud was returned only her $12,065.00.

During the court ordered election, they were again harassed and received offers to make all their problems go away in exchange for their support of Campbell. Campbell also claimed that Cloud falsely accused him relying on the fact that no criminal action was taken.

Campbell received six months of jail time, a $500.00 fine, but both were suspended for 18 months probation and $2,000.00 restitution. Bert Campbell would have been able to hold public office unless he was convicted of a felony.

Months later on February 21st 2015, Cloud won 134 to 118. Cloud hopes this story will point to more legislative election reform to uphold the integrity of our election system.

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