The State of Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the original decision handed down by 2nd Judicial District Court Judge, Rick Warren, in regard to the recall petition seeking to remove Dr. J. “Spike” Harris as Mayor of Jonesboro.
The fourteen page decision that was rendered on August 29th, stated in summary that the Jackson Parish Registrar of Voters did have the authority to rule out 49 signatures that made the recall petition invalid.
“Naturally we are pleased with the decision,” said Harris. “We felt that we were in a comfortable position based on the advice we were receiving from our counsel.”
Does this finally end the near year long drama that has gripped Jonesboro ever since Harris won the November 2022 election over Leslie Thompson by a mere 20 votes?
“I hope so but they certainly have the right to file for an appeal to this decision if they choose,” said Harris. “Regardless, we are going to ignore any distractions and continue to work to move Jonesboro forward as we have the last ten months.”
The continued battle of the election results and voting procedures has not only caused division among residents of Jonesboro, it has now taken a physical toll on Thompson. Soon after the latest decision was revealed, the former Mayor collapsed for reasons unknown and was rushed to Willis Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport where he was held for observation before being released.
“I ask everyone to lift Leslie up in their prayers and we all hope he fully recovers soon,” said Harris.
Recap of Mayor Election Events to Date
November 8, 2022 – Challenger J. “Spike” Harris was declared the winner of the Jonesboro Mayor’s race by a mere 20 votes, outpolling incumbent Leslie Thompson by a 685 – 665 margin.
November 15, 2022 – A recount by LA Election officials and the Jackson Parish Registrar of Voters was conducted at the request of Thompson, where only mail-in ballots were recounted. The result was no change in the totals prompting Thompson to vow “We cannot concede until we have done everything that the law allows us to do.”
January 3, 2023 – A recall petition containing 881 potential elector’s signatures for the removal of Harris as Mayor of Jonesboro was filed with the LA Secretary of State by Thompson, Danettia Hayes, Devin Flowers and Henry Bradley. The petition was then presented to Jackson Parish Registrar of Voters Tina Cockerham who after review disqualified 134 of those signatures for failing to meet the requirements of LA. Revised Statute 18:3 of being registered voter, or not residing within the election voting area or not including accurate date of birth information. The number of verified signatures required to trigger the recall sought by the petitioners was 694 or 33.33% of the registered voters. With the disqualification of the 134 signatures the number of verified signatures fell to 677, insufficient to meet the threshold requirement of the recall.
August 15, 2023 – The group of petitioners filed a “Petition for Writ of Mandamus” in trial court seeking to certify 49 of the signatures alleging that Cockerham had the duty to certify all qualified electors who signed the recall petition.
August 17, 2023 – Cockerham filed an “Exception of No Cause of Action on Behalf of the Registrar of Voters alleging that the plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action that would entitle them to relief on a Writ of Mandamus because the duty assigned to the Registrar contained an “element of discretion that defeats the right to mandamus.” Cockerham asserted that her act of verifying signatures was an exercise of her discretion in judging whether the signature on the petition appeared to be that of the voter.
August 21, 2023 – After arguments on both petitions were heard, 2nd Judicial District Court Judge, Rick Warren, a written judgement was rendered ordering that the 49 signatures, which had been rejected, be added back to the petition and be verified. The inclusion of the 49 signatures increased the number of signed recall petitioners to 726 and above the threshold required for a recall vote. Cockerham immediately filed for an appeal.
August 29, 2023 – The State of Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard Cockerham’s legal counsel, led by LA Attorney General Jeff Landry, raise three assignments of error before ordering that once again the 49 signatures be removed. The result was that again the recall petition fell below the required number of signatures. Additionally it was ordered that all costs associated with the appeal be assessed to the appellees.