Cynthia Hedge-Morrell's camp responds after complaints filed against her
NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) – The Cynthia Hedge-Morrell camp responded Tuesday after her opponent in the race for an at-large seat filed formal complaints against her. Jason Williams says Hedge-Morrell broke election laws.
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell wouldn't talk to us on camera Tuesday when we tracked her down at a campaign event, instead referring us to her campaign manager, Todd Ragusa. We wanted to get her reaction to the allegations brought by Jason Williams, the man running against her for a city council at-large seat.
The complaint Williams filed with the Secretary of State's office Tuesday states, "Mrs. Hedge-Morrell handed out sample ballots within 600 feet of the polling precinct located at the Guste Hi-Rise Retirement Community...by walking the floors and knocking on doors of the residents. This took place after poll worker, Sheila Alfred, warned Mrs. Hedge-Morrell that she was to remain 600 feet away from the voting site."
"What the electioneering law says is that you cannot come within 600 feet of a polling place, that there's kind of a sacred area there that voters should feel comfortable with, that they shouldn't be bombarded or harassed by campaigns as they're entering the polling place," explained UNO political scientist Ed Chervenak.
Hedge-Morrell's campaign sent FOX 8 a statement Tuesday night saying Jason Williams is attempting to get free media attention and distract voters. It also says, "While Mr. Williams' 'complaint' is a political stunt, Council member Hedge-Morrell was visiting constituents across the city on election day, including residents of Guste."
But the statement doesn't address the two allegations Williams makes: that Hedge-Morrell was within 600 feet of a polling place, and that she was handing out sample ballots. The complaint Williams filed also states the sample ballots Hedge-Morrell allegedly handed out were printed on her City Council letterhead, which is another clear violation.
The Secretary of State's office has an election compliance unit that looks into complaints such as this one. Chervenak explains what happens if the allegations are found to be true saying, "I don't think she'd be taken out of the race, I think she would probably pay a fine."
Chervenak said he's not surprised to see this race take a nasty turn, as this contest is an incredibly close one.
Hedge-Morrell's statement also says she'll continue to abide by all election laws.
Williams not only filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's office but also with the Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters and the Inspector General.
Copyright 2014 WVUE. All rights reserved.