Long County Probate Judge Bobby Harrison Smith lost his election challenge against opponent Teresa Odum, according to court documents obtained by the Courier.
Smith lost the June 9, election to Odum by nine votes, according to the Secretary of State’s final certified election results.
Smith’s attorney Jake Evans, of Holland & Knight, appeared on several TV news stations late August and September alleging wide-spread voter fraud in Long County. Evans had said that some people were able to vote twice during the election and others, eligible to vote, were turned away.
Evans filed a petition to contest the election with Long County Superior Court, according to a copy of the petition obtained by the Courier and dated by the clerk of courts July 1.
Evans’ 29-page 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.”
Odum’s Attorney Luke Moses, of Jones Osteen and Jones filed a response to the petition July 20, saying the allegations are untrue. The petition stated, “No credible evidence or any irregularities or illegalities exist which warrant the relief sought by Smith. As such the results of the June 9, 2020 election for the Office of Probate Judge of Long County should stand.”
Both parties attended a bench trial on the matter held Sept. 8 through Sept. 10.
At the bench trial Smith and his attorney identified various aspects of 30 recorded votes that they alleged would be sufficient to change or cast doubt of the election results.
Those votes were further categorized into sub-groups called doubles, movers, blanks unverified and others.
The doubles were voters that allegedly voted twice.
According to the final order filed Dec. 1, by Superior Court Judge John E. Morse Smith and his attorney failed to provide sufficient evidence of voter fraud stating, “As to each of Petitioner’s “buckets”/categories, the Court concludes the evidence offered is insufficient to cast doubt on this election in order to invalidate it. With respect to the “Doubles,” the (Long County Election) Board concedes six voters cast two ballots in the election without their absentee ballot being properly cancelled or other curative action taken by the Board. The Court finds no others, and of these six only one may have had nefarious intent.”
The movers were folks who allegedly had moved away from Long County more than 30 days prior to election.
The court ruled stating, “The Court concludes one of the “Movers” is troubling from a credibility standpoint. As aforementioned, voter’s name redacted, eligibility was challenged prior to the election and the Board deemed him qualified to vote in the election, which he did. The evidence demonstrated this voter voted in the election and is a relative of Petitioner (Smith). The Court concludes for Petitioner to contend this vote should be credible evidence of an illegal or irregular cast vote is quite disingenuous.”
The blanks challenged questionable absentee ballots.
“As to the “Blanks,” the Court concludes the record sufficiently demonstrates each of these voters testified their ballots reflected their will, and they wanted their votes counted,” the final order stated. “The Court finds no intentional behavior of the Board as to these voters and concludes the Board substantially complied with election procedures to assist the voters to cast their ballots.”
The unverified group were eight recorded votes that lacked an indication by the poll worker on the application for in-person absentee ballot as to the type of identification produced by the voter.
However, according to the court document all eight testified that they showed a proper government issued identification prior to receiving their ballots.
The outsiders were folks who had a Hinesville address due to their mail but do reside and pay their property taxes in Long County, according to the final order.
“Overall, the evidence offered of voter irregularities (however alleged to be real and disturbingly perceived) are not prolific enough or sufficiently proven to cast doubt on the election and does not meet the burden under OCGA 21-2-522. For the reason stated herein the First Amended Petition to Contest Election Results and Request for New Election of June 9, 2020, Long County Probate Judge Election is hereby DENIED.”
The final order can be downloaded below.