Judge Brinkman dismisses challenge to PP Police Chief’s election results

By: MICHAEL BORDELON

News Editor

Outgoing Pine Prairie Police Chief L.C. Deshotel filed suit against Police Chief-elect Todd Ortis to challenge the results of the October 4, election, in which Ortis won by eight votes.

A probing was held Friday morning, October 17, to determine if enough evidence existed to go to trial.

Deshotel’s suit claimed residents who live outside the Village of Pine Prairie cast their votes during the election and/or that machines were malfunctioning.

Opelousas’ Robert Brinkman, retired judge, presided over the case, as both district judges were unable to hear the case due to possible conflict of interest issues.

Deshotel, who served Pine Prairie as police chief for 17 years, was represented by Tony Dupre and Ortis was represented by Tim Fontenot and Marcus Fontenot.

The first witness called to the stand was Wade Deshotel, commissioner-in-charge who presided over precincts 4001 and 4012. Deshotel claimed approximately five instances occurred on election day where voters’ selections would not register in the machine. Deshotel said when the voters retried casting their ballots a second time, the machines registered them.

“It always worked the second time,” he said.

At the end of the day, when comparing the sign-in sheet versus the number of votes cast, both numbers matched, indicating the results were accurate, but Deshotel said he included a note in a letter stating the machine had some issues registering votes. However, Deshotel also testified he did not remember if he sent the note to the clerk of court’s office, the registrar of voters or the secretary of state. No one testified ever seeing the note.

Dwayne Aguillard, election manager, stated writing a note was incorrect procedure in reporting an issue. Aguillard also stated he was informed on election night only three people had a problem with the machine registering their votes on the first try, and not five.

Further, Aguillard reported the machines showed 240 people voted in Precinct 4001 and 36 voted in precinct 4012. This was reiterated by Nicole Fontenot, clerk of court’s office, who presented the sign-in sheets used at the polls, which matched the machine’s results.

The second claim made by L.C. Deshotel, regarding voters living outside the limits of Pine Prairie casting their votes, was also discussed.

Registrar of Voters Lucas Buller testified the state checks addresses every year through the postal service. Deshotel’s suit listed 13 voters who were believed to be living outside the village, but Buller said 12 of those 13 voters had their addresses confirmed by the state. Only one of the addresses remained unconfirmed, but that still did not mean it was outside the limits of Pine Prairie. Buller also added these people may not have even voted for police chief, and were only voting on other items, such as the district attorney’s race.

Judge Brinkman dismissed both claims, stating the claim of voters voting illegally failed because Deshotel would have needed to challenge those votes on the night of the election. As there was no challenge at that time, his right to challenge the votes was waived.

Brinkman said the second claim, regarding malfunctioning machines, was dismissed as there was no evidence. The vote tally and sign-in sheets matched and were accurate. He added even considering there were five votes given to Ortis due to machine malfunction, it would not have affected the outcome of the election.

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