Georgia high court: Votes cast for dead candidate are void

Georgia’s highest court ruled Monday that votes cast for a candidate who dies before Election Day are void.

The Georgia Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion upheld a lower court ruling that said votes cast for a candidate who died three days before the June election for a seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commission were not valid.

Jerry NeSmith, who died on June 6, got 1,866 of the votes cast, while his opponent, Jesse Houle, got 1,405. The county elections board declared Houle commissioner-elect, relying on Georgia law and state Supreme Court precedent saying all votes for NeSmith were void because of his death.

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Five registered voters sued Houle and the elections board to challenge the election results, saying a special election should be held. A Clarke County Superior Court judge dismissed their petition.

“Because the applicable Georgia statutes dictate that votes cast on paper ballots for a candidate who has died before Election Day are void, none of the votes cast for NeSmith had legal effect,” Justice Charles Bethel wrote in Monday’s opinion. That means the elections board was correct to declare Houle commissioner-elect, he added.

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