Hessmer 'lock out' was innocent error


   Had the vote for Hessmer police chief been a close contest, the village could be facing some post-election drama. 
   A poll worker at the Hessmer precinct mistakenly “locked out” six voters before the error in understanding the procedure for the election was caught. All three candidates for police chief are Democrats -- incumbent Kenneth Smith and challengers Donald Lachney and Donald Bernard. Smith won re-election with 239 votes to Lachney's 110 and Bernard's 19. The village has a population of under 900.
   The poll worker’s only previous election had been at the Presidential preference primary, which restricts voting by party. Since the Nov. 8 election in Hessmer was a “primary election,” the worker asked voters if they were Republican, Democrat or independent and locked out those that were not Democrats.
   In Louisiana’s open primary system, party affililation is not a factor -- except in the election to choose the parties’ candidate for President.
   However, six voters who were not registered as Democrats were unable to cast votes for one of the Democrats in the police chief primary.
   District Attorney Charles Riddle briefly discussed the issue at the Avoyelles Police Jury meeting that night, noting that it was the only polling place incident of which he was aware.
   “There was no criminal intent,” Riddle said. “If the decision is by six votes or less, a candidate will have grounds to challenge the results. The error had no effect on any other elections on the ballot, just the Hessmer police chief election. 
   “There was no conspiracy to ‘rig’ the Presidential election by locking out Republican votes in Hessmer,” he added with a smile.