Quitman Co. election called into question - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Quitman Co. election called into question

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July 17, 2008

By Chauncy Glover

GEORGETOWN, GA - (WTVM) -  Longtime Sheriff Lon Ming was defeated Tuesday night, and his supporters say family members of his opponent helped count the ballots and even left the courthouse with them.

"I don't know the man. Never seen him. But I think elections should be fair and legal and that wasn't right from the get go," says Jennifer Ming.

The big fuss is over the Sheriff's election between Lon Ming, the incumbent Sheriff, and Steve Newton.

Residents say the probate judge was not proper in handling the elections or the ballots, and Steve Newton's victory isn't right.

"His father in law was allowed to be in the polling area and his best friend was a poll worker. They were allowed to use their cell phones. They were allowed to leave and go smoking, one of them even went campaigning," says Jennifer Ming.

We asked Quitman Co. Probate Judge Andrew Bennett  if Mr. Newton may have had family members counting the ballots. "That is incorrect," Bennett said.  "His father in law was a certified poll watcher, and he sat in a chair watching the members of the registrar committee count the ballots.                          

Some poll workers say the absentee ballots were even taken outside the courthouse before they were tallied. "They were not taken away, no sir," said Bennett. "They were not taken away from the courthouse."

Charles Davis, the Chief Deputy of the Sheriff's Department, says he was on duty at the polls all day, and claims he saw Newton's supporter's counting the ballots. "Yes, they were counting the ballots, and when the print out would come, they will get on the cell phone and call someone. And they couldn't get the count right so they left the courtroom with the ballots," said Davis.

Specifically, Davis says he means "The judge and the poll workers. Ms. Butler, Mr. Kemp, his daddy in law, walked out with the ballots and walked in a couple of hours later."

Georgia's Secretary Of State, Karen Handel, says she will look into the complaints.