NEW ORLEANS -- The legal battle to stop the tolls on the Crecsent City Connection bridge enters phase two.
Tuesday, a Baton Rouge judge upheld the results of a November election that extended the tolls for another 20 years.
Judge William Morvant also revealed that a recount of about 4000 ballots over the weekend actually doubled the margin of victory from 18 to 36 votes with more than 308,000 votes cast in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes.
'I knew the number was going to be different because of the way the count was handled in the beginning,' said Pat Hand, a Gretna attorney who filed a lawsuit contesting the election on behalf of Mike Teachworth, founder of stopthetoll.org.
The also agreed to hold a hearing on the merits of voter irregularity and electioneering claims included in the lawsuit.
It alleges that more than 1600 voters who cast provisional ballots were not allowed to vote on the referendum.
'We allege these people were denied their right to vote and if they had been allowed to vote the outcome would have been different,' said Hand.
The suit also claims a polling commissioner in New Orleans East told voters if they didn't support the tolls their property tax would increase.
'She was trying to influence people to vote in favor of the tolls,' said Hand. 'My information is that there were 127 something people who voted yes in that precinct. She could have influenced every one of them.'
Eyewitness News legal analyst Donald 'Chick' Foret said election nullification suits are hard to prove and rarely prevail.
'The law states very clearly and succinctly that the plaintiff must show except for the irregularities or the fraud, the results would have been different,' said Foret. 'I don't know of any case where a challenge to an election involving a proposition has been successful in overturning the result of the original election.'
The election nullification issues in the CCC toll vote are expected to be taken up by Morvant on March 4 and 5.