The Supreme Court of Georgia has tossed out an election challenge by former Long County Probate Court Judge Bobby Harrison Smith against current Probate Court Judge Teresa L. Odum, who beat Smith by nine votes in the June 2020 general elections.
The decision upheld a previous ruling by Chatham County Superior Court Judge John Morse which denied the petition by Smith and his attorney Jake Evans for a new election.
Evans’ petition stated, in part, that the June 9, election, “was full of irregularities and errors that, in total, cast in doubt the Election’s result— a difference of only nine votes. These irregularities and errors include (1) individuals not residing in Long County voting in the Election, (2) missing ballots reappearing at a recount and uncertainty about if ballots had been counted twice, (3) absentee ballots never being sent to individuals that requested them and those individuals’ votes being rejected as they could not vote due to public health concerns, (4) eligible voters wrongly being turned away at the polls, (5) Long County election voters improperly using newly-purchased election machines causing voters to be wrongly turned away and their votes wrongly rejected.”
However, the Supreme Court’s decision, handed down on Aug. 24, stated, “The evidence presented at trial supports the trial court’s determination that, of the challenged electors, only the ballots of six Doubles and one Mover should be rejected. Those seven ballots are not sufficient to place the results of the Election in doubt given the nine-vote margin of victory in this case. Accordingly, we discern no error in the trial court’s denial of Smith’s petition to contest the Election.”
Odum’s attorney, Luke Moses of Jones Osteen & Jones in Hinesville, in an interview with law.com told the Daily Report, “We are elated that the Supreme Court made the decision that it did. It helps protect voters from being disenfranchised in the state, particularly those voters who vote by absentee ballot.”
Moses said the petition for a do-over election would have negated absentee ballots, which contained errors, but still reflected the will of those who cast those ballots and later testified in court that their votes reflected their choice.
“Some of those voters had not signed their ballot in the correct place when they cast it,” Moses said to law.com. “There was an additional person who voted by absentee ballot who testified that he was illiterate and that his wife had filled out his ballot for him and signed his name. He testified that that vote expressed his will [because] he talked about the choices with his wife.”
Moses added that the Supreme Court’s decision showed the willingness of the court to side with the will of the voters and let their votes count. Moses said it will strengthen election laws in the state.
In an emailed statement to the Daily Report on law.com, Evans wrote, “We are disappointed in the court’s order, because it is contrary to Georgia law and greatly undercuts election integrity in Georgia. My client, Bobby Smith, remains honored to have served the people of Long County as their probate judge and expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to do so.”
You can read the previous report on the petition here: https://coastalcourier.com/news/long-probate-race-challenge-rejected/
A copy of the Supreme Court’s decision will be available for download below