2012-10-10 / Community

Baker County decision pending on alleged election fraud

Accusing the opposition of buying absentee votes, officially defeated Baker County Sheriff’s office candidate Tim Williamson took his opponent to court.

During a daylong hearing Wednesday, Williamson’s attorney, Jimmy Skipper worked to establish the possibility that some voters were offered $20 and a half-gallon of whiskey to vote for incumbent Baker County Sheriff Dana Meade during the county’s August 27 runoff.

Donna Sue Poole, an employee of a local liquor store, testified she heard a young woman say she’d been paid by Vann Irwin to vote for Meade. Irwin is a Baker County Commissioner and a well-known Meade supporter.

Baker County Elections Superintendent Melissa Watson took the stand to explain that the term absentee ballot can be a means of voting prior to the actual day of this election. Under questioning by Skipper, Watson explained and defended the system of voter verification for absentee ballots, including the addresses to which the ballots were sent.

Officials discovered that Andrea Stubbs of Baker County, a convicted felon, had assisted at least six separate voters.

Also discovered was a stack of 14 absentee ballots with the entire line where Williamson’s name appeared ruled with a black marker, then Meade’s name colored in. Watson admitted the ballots were irregular.

In closing arguments, Meade’s attorney, Bruce Warren, cited Supreme Court guidelines for invalidating elections, claiming none of them applied in the Baker County case. According to Warren, there had been no proven misconduct by election officials, nor had any voters been shown to be unqualified.

According to Skipper, the additional votes that might have gone to Williamson totaled 72. By Watson’s count, Meade won the election by only 36 votes.

Skipper asked Gray to declare Williamson winner of the runoff or to order a new election. Following the final arguments, Gray promised a decision by Wednesday.

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