Secretary of State Tom Schedler says the law is clear: Candidates have until nine days after an election to protest a vote.
So, for St. Bernard Assessor candidate Jimmy Licciardi, it's too late. On Oct. 22, he lost out on a spot in the run-off by 43 votes.
“Some people think this election is tainted,” we remarked to Schedler in a recent interview.
“Well, I obviously can understand how they would feel that way,” Schedler said. “But we do have laws in place. Obviously I’ve got to abide by the laws that currently are standing, until they’re changed.
“I guess anyone can file suit,” notes Schedler, “but the law is very specific in that area and the courts have been very steadfast in holding that up.”
Now that sheriff candidate Wayne Landry has challenged more than 1,000 votes, the future of those votes will be decided by the parish Board of Election Supervisors. They decide if votes are legitimate or are thrown out.
On that board are St. Bernard Registrar of Voters Velma Bourg, Clerk of Court Lena Torres, Civil Sheriff Joann Lane, Joe Oster -- who's in the run-off for a council seat in St. Bernard -- and Michael Bayham, who missed out on a run-off in a state representative race.
Monday night, the secretary of state criticized one member of that board, Velma Bourg. We also showed you how an employee of Clerk of Court Lena Torres claims a homestead exemption in Pearl River, but is registered to vote out of Torres’ house.
Now, we have records that question another member of the board of election supervisors. Civil Sheriff Joann Lane owns property on the North Shore. She owns one property with her husband and child -- that property has a homestead exemption.
Lane is registered to vote out of a house on Jackson Boulevard in Chalmette. Records show five people have registered to vote out of this property.
Lane's daughter, Jacqueline Lucia, has a homestead exemption in Jefferson Parish. But she voted in St. Bernard last month.
Sheriff employee Kelly Devenport has a homestead exemption in Slidell -- she voted in St. Bernard as well.
Tuesday, we spent some more time going through St. Bernard's voting list. In the first 15 minutes of searching, we found more than a dozen more questionable votes.
“As chief elections officer, it concerns me greatly that we’ve got this kind of problem,” Sec. of State Schedler told us, “especially with some of the close elections we’ve had in St. Bernard Parish.”
But the secretary of state says his office doesn't have the power to do much. “When we call an investigation, we will certainly look into it. If we find wrongdoing, we will do like we do each and every case. We will refer that to the district attorney in that parish, and it is that district attorney’s determination to prosecute that case.”
“So will you look at wrongdoing in St. Bernard Parish?” we asked him.
“Yes, we will, to the best of our ability,” Schedler replied.
State law is clear: You must vote where you have a homestead exemption. But the legislature still has a law for displaced voters, dating back to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The secretary of state says it’s unclear how any judge would weigh the two laws against each other.
“We certainly see some of those issues where people have moved to another parish, exercised their right with a homestead exemption,” Schedler says. “According to the law that is very specific, that if you take a homestead exemption on a piece of property -- even though you may still own something in your previous domicile or residence -- that is where you should be registered to vote.”