Judges reject election challenge by candidate for inheritance court
ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia’s highest court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling dismissing an unsuccessful candidate for election as a county probate court judge.
Bobby Harrison Smith had filed a motion to challenge the June 2020 election results for the Long County Estates Court judge after the 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 wrongly rejected.
In a 7-0 Georgia Supreme Court decision released Tuesday, Judge Carla Wong McMillian wrote that the evidence presented supports the lower court’s conclusion that among the disputed votes, only the ballots of six people who voted two times and a person who hasn’t live in the county should be dismissed.
“Those seven ballots are not enough to cast doubt on the election results given the margin of victory of nine votes in this case,” McMillian wrote.
Aside from the voter who turned out not to reside in Long County, “the lower court found no evidence that a voter or election official knowingly acted with possible fraudulent intent.” McMillian wrote. The county electoral board admitted that the six double voters cast their ballots in person without their mail-in ballots being properly spoiled.
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 margin of nine votes in favor of Odum.
The County Electoral Council then proceeded with a recount, which found additional mail-in ballots and reallocated a provisional ballot 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 margin of nine votes for Odum.
In Smith’s petition contesting the results, he said there were 30 votes cast incorrectly or improperly. The trial court dismissed the petition after finding that there was not enough evidence to cast doubt on the election results.