Board of Elections Chairman Richard Braun's written response to judge's ruling:
"Since the commencement of this election contest, the lone concern of the Liberty County Board of Elections and Registration (the “Board”) has been to ensure that the Democratic Primary race for Sheriff of Liberty County was fairly and honestly conducted in accordance with Georgia law. After a thorough review of its practices in such election, the Board was unable to find any meaningful irregularity. I am pleased that the Court agreed with the Board’s assessment and confirmed that the conduct of the contested election was proper and lawful in all respects.
As the Board has no stake in the outcome of any election or allegiance to any candidate, no other comments will be forthcoming regarding this matter, except that the Board would like to thank the Court, the candidates, and their legal counsel for the professional manner in which these proceedings were conducted.
On behalf of the Board, I also commend our hardworking staff and volunteers who so ably serve the voters of Liberty County. The next time you visit the Board’s offices or go to the polls, please thank our staff and volunteers for the good work that they do. Thank you."
The results of the May Democratic primary in the Liberty County sheriff’s race will stand after a judge ruled Friday there were “insufficient illegally cast votes or irregularities in the conduct of the election to cast doubt upon the results.”
Judge Gary McCorvey filed his ruling Friday afternoon in response to a lawsuit filed in June by candidate William Bowman challenging the results of the primary won by incumbent Sheriff Steve Sikes.
Sikes said he maintained from the start he didn't do anything wrong.
"I said early on from day one that the evidence would prove me not guilty of anything and there was no wrongdoing," he said. "I took the high road throughout this whole campaign and am proud to see the results turn out the way they did. Now I'd like to say I want this community to come together and let's move forward in a positive manner."
McCorvey's ruling came after a day-long hearing Thursday at the Liberty County Justice Center during which he heard testimoney from defendants and witnesses, and arguments from attorneys representing Bowman, incumbent sheriff Steve Sikes, Elections Supervisor Ella Golden, the Elections Board and its members and the other candidates.
Bowman, who stepped down as a Georgia State Patrol trooper to run and finished second in a five-way race, initially alleged intimidation, illegal votes, voting irregularities and fraud by the defendants during the election, while also claiming voting machines were tampered with.
Bowman’s attorney, Samuel Oliver, said his client dropped some of the allegations, but continued to press forward with claims that absentee ballots were mishandled and that Sikes intimidated voters and had an altercation with poll worker David Spencer during early voting on May 20.
Based on the election numbers Bowman and his attorney had to show that 75 ballots were improperly cast or were subject to irregularities and some 42 of the 46 they contended were invalid were actually valid, the judge’s ruling said.
The judge also ruled that Sikes was not actively campaigning and didn’t violate election laws when he stopped at a polling place in Midway May 20.
“The court finds that the sheriff was in such area on more than one occasion but he was not campaigning as contemplated by the prohibition and was on one occasion investigating an allegation of activity at the polling place within the scope of his duties as sheriff,” his ruling noted.
More updates as available.
Lewis Levine contributed to this report