Board finds 111 ineligible votes cast in Hammond election

AMITE — The Board of Election Supervisors for Tangipahoa Parish on Wednesday certified returns for Saturday’s election, with one caveat: 111 ineligible votes were cast in the School Board’s Hammond magnet millage election, which failed by a margin of 76 votes.

Election officials maintain that the outcome of the election would have been the same even if those votes were excluded.

Precinct 145 in northeastern Ponchatoula cast 128 votes Saturday on a measure that would have created a 5-year, 15-mill property tax supporting magnet programs at Hammond-area schools.

Only a narrow sliver of the precinct along its northern boundary lies within the Consolidated School District No. 1 taxing district. That portion contains 255 registered voters, only 17 of whom cast votes in the election, said Clerk of Court Julian Dufreche, the parish’s chief election official.

The 111 ineligible votes were cast after the precinct commissioner failed to properly administer the voting machine lockout on the precinct’s four voting machines, Dufreche said. The lockout mechanism would have prevented precinct voters outside the taxing district from casting a vote on that particular measure, despite seeing it on their ballots.

The measure failed with a total of 945 votes in favor and 1,021 votes against, according to complete but unofficial returns reported by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.

Precinct 145 cast 72 votes in favor of the millage and 56 against.

Even assuming all 17 eligible votes from that precinct were “yes” votes, and the remaining 111 votes excluded, the election’s outcome would have been the same with 890 votes in favor and 965 against, Dufreche said.

School system officials were notified of the ineligible votes Wednesday after the election supervisors’ meeting, and Dufreche said he would be speaking with the precinct’s commissioner soon.

“Lockouts have always been a problem,” Dufreche said. “Things improved greatly when we began notating next to each voter’s name all the different districts they’re in.

“That’s not to say there haven’t been other problems before now. The numbers just really stuck out with this one,” he said.

Returns showed a 50.2 percent turnout in Precinct 145, while turnout in the other 28 precincts voting in the millage election ranged from 0 to 21 percent and averaged 6.9 percent, according to data provided by the Board of Election Supervisors. Excluding the 111 ineligible votes, the turnout in Precinct 145 for the millage vote would have been 6.7 percent.

A parishwide measure to rededicate an existing 1-cent sales tax for the School Board also was on Saturday’s ballot.