ATLANTA - The Georgia Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling has upheld a Long County election challenge decision where seven people cast flawed ballots, but it wasn't enough to overturn a nine-vote election victory.
The two attorneys who went head to head in the case both say the ruling could affect election challenges for years to come in Georgia.
"That decision completely eviscerates voter integrity in Georgia," says attorney Jake Evans who represented then Long County Probate Judge Bobby Smith.
"I think it is very significant in terms of voting rights, yes," said Luke Moses who represented the winning candidate, Teresa Odum.
Odum won the 2020 probate judge election in Long County by nine votes. The incumbent, Judge Bobby Smith, sued, challenging the results, claiming people voted twice, absentee ballots were flawed, and people outside the county voted.
"I have no idea how people voted twice. I’ve never tried it, I’ve never wanted to try it, I guess that’s why it blows my mind," then Judge Smith told the I-Team in September of 2020.
During the hearing, conducted by video conference during the pandemic, Bobby Smith challenged 30 ballots as improper.
Judge John Morse threw out one ballot because the voter lived in a different county. And he found 6 people had voted twice. Once, by absentee ballot, and again in person.
Including Hamilton Evans who admitted to us why he voted twice
"To prove that there is a flaw in the system. It's that simple," said Evans who alerted the local sheriff after casting his vote.
But it wasn’t enough votes to change the election results.
Judge Morse found a few absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications were filled out improperly. But, Judge Morse ruled those mistakes were not attempts to cast fraudulent votes.
At the time, Long County Elections supervisor, Trynina Harris summed the election up this way.
"I believe that we did everything to the best of our ability and accidents and mistakes happen. We're human," said Harris.
Now, the Georgia Supreme Court in a unanimous decision upheld Judge Morse's ruling finding that there were not enough improper votes to overturn the election. The Supreme Court noted Judge Morse found no evidence that any voter acted with possible fraudulent or malicious intent.
"The will of the voter trumps any alleged errors on that voter's ballot," said Moses.
Moses says the Supreme Court ruling will have a major impact on future election challenges, making it harder for the losing party to attempt to throw out votes that have any kind of mistake or flaw.
"I think it will be quoted for years to come in close elections contests," said Moses.
Jake Evans agrees that the ruling will create a precedent making future election challenges harder to win.
But that's not good in his mind. He's worried that some absentee ballots and ballot applications were improperly filled out and should have been thrown out.
"If ballots fail to meet the indispensable requirements to be cast, they should not be cast, period. That undercuts public confidence and should not stand," said Evans
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