Supremes: Not enough proof to overturn sheriff’s re-election
By JIM WALLS
June 3, 2013 — A candidate did not present enough evidence of irregularities to overturn a 2012 election that he lost to Baker County Sheriff Dana Meade, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled today.
Tim Williamson, the challenger, received about one-third more votes than Meade in the 2012 Democratic primary but lost a runoff by 39 votes. Williamson challenged the results in court, claiming that the election was tainted by irregularities with absentee ballots, votes bought with money or liquor, and other issues.
A lower court agreed and ordered a new runoff but postponed the rematch so Meade could appeal. The high court held today that Williamson had not shown that the number of challenged votes, even if they were thrown out, would have changed the outcome.
The court’s 17-page order also held that Williamson had not made a sufficient case to invalidate many of the votes he had challenged. The complaint noted, for instance, that 14 absentee ballots appeared to have been altered in similar fashion, with Williamson’s name and the adjacent circle crossed out and the circle next to Meade’s name filled in. The high court noted that the sealed envelopes containing the ballots had not been tampered with so, as the lower court noted, “it is only speculation as to for whom the votes were originally intended.”
Of several voters said to have been paid for their support, the court ruled, only one had admitted selling his vote (for $20). Another said a Meade supporter gave her money and liquor but that she did not vote for the sheriff.
Williamson’s attorney, former Democratic Senate leader Jimmy Skipper, said today that he and his client hadn’t had a chance to discuss whether to ask the court to reconsider its decision, which was unanimous.
Meade has been sheriff of Baker County, located about 200 miles south of Atlanta, since 2008. He qualified that year to run as an independent against incumbent Isaac Anderson, then was named the Democratic nominee when Anderson withdrew from the race.