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Justices reject probate court candidate’s election challenge

August 24, 2021 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld a lower court’s ruling rejecting an election challenge by an unsuccessful county probate court judge candidate.

Bobby Harrison Smith had filed a petition to contest the June 2020 election results for Long County Probate Court judge after results showed him losing to Teresa Odum by a narrow margin. He alleged that election officials committed irregularities, illegal votes were cast and votes were wrongfully rejected.

In a 7-0 Georgia Supreme Court decision published Tuesday, Justice Carla Wong McMillian wrote that the evidence presented supports the lower court’s finding that among the challenged votes, only the ballots of six people who were found to have voted twice and one person who doesn’t live in the county 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,” McMillian wrote.

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Aside from the voter who was found not to be a resident of Long County, “the trial court found no evidence that any voter or election official knowingly acted with possible fraudulent intent,” McMillian wrote. The county election board acknowledged that the six double-voters voted in person without their absentee ballots being properly canceled.

The election results were initially certified on June 19, 2020, 10 days after the election. They showed a total of 2,735 votes — 1,372 for Odum and 1,363 for Smith, a nine-vote margin favoring Odum.

The county election board then did a recount, which led to additional absentee ballots being found and a provisional ballot being reallocated to Smith. The new results, certified on June 26, 2020, showed 2,741 votes cast — 1,375 for Odum and 1,366 for Smith, again a nine-vote margin for Odum.

In Smith’s petition contesting the results, he said there were 30 votes cast improperly or irregularly. The trial court denied the petition after finding there wasn’t enough evidence to cast doubt on the results of the election.