Judge orders new election for Sulphur City Council District 2
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Judge Kendrick Guidry has ordered a new election for Sulphur City Council District 2.
Guidry made the decision after an afternoon of testimony in district court, declaring the March 26 Sulphur City Council race null and void.
The new election will be June 4, with early voting May 21 through 28.
The council race was marred when some voters were not placed into the correct district after recent redistricting.
Incumbent Sulphur City Councilman Mike Koonce challenged the results after being defeated 169-143 by challenger Nick Nezat - a difference of 26 votes.
Calcasieu Registrar of Voters Kim Fontenot took the stand, admitting she made a mistake - 30 people were initially left off the voting list for District 2 and two people voted who should not have.
Fontenot was questioned at length about changes in district lines.
In addition to Fontenot, Nezat, Koonce, and Clerk of Court Lynn Jones testified.
Koonce says whether he wins or loses, it was important to bring awareness.
“I saw the things that didn’t and I said to myself, this is got to be corrected. This has got to be corrected. If we’ve got a problem we need to fix it. Not put a Band-Aid on it,” Koonce said.
Both Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin - whose office oversees elections - and Nezat were listed as defendants in the petition.
Testimony started around 1 p.m. with Nezat on the stand.
Nezat was questioned about social media comments calling the integrity of the election into question because of the confusion.
Mike McHale, Koonce’s attorney, asked Nezat whether he now believed an election do-over was necessary.
Nezat said no new election was needed because the results will be the same.
Adam Johnson, Nezat’s attorney, said the number of votes at issue would not change the outcome.
But ultimately, Judge Guidry found the irregularities were substantial and that calling voters turned away and inviting them back was not a suitable remedy.
“I respect the judge’s opinion,” Nezat said. “It’s hard to beat an incumbent, but I look forward to doing it twice. We’ll go to June 4 election and get back to work.”
Those involved were disappointed by the low voter turnout and hope that it will improve.
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