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Investigation finds Hall County violated election rules

Violations found in two separate complaints filed after July primary

POSTED: April 19, 2013 1:52 p.m.

The Hall County elections office committed 14 violation of state election law during last year’s July primary, a preliminary investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office has concluded.

The violations were uncovered following two separate complaints filed in conjunction with the July 31 primary election.

The investigation found that Charlotte Sosebee, the director of elections, and two poll workers violated election regulations by allowing at least one voters to vote twice and that three voters either signed incorrect absentee ballots of failed to sign ballots at all.

The election office was also faulted for incorrectly placing about 60 registered voters into the wrong county commission district, which means those voters would have been given the wrong ballot when they went to the polls.

Sosebee told The Times she was not aware of the investigative report.

“I’m not aware of this,” Sosebee said. “I’ve not gone before the State Elections Board.”

The voter who cast two ballots is Shanon Lutz, the wife of Commissioner Craig Lutz. The investigation concluded that Shanon Lutz violated state election law by voting twice. But the investigation also said poll workers Keri Jones and Lewis Martin were liable for Lutz’s violations and a series of other violations in this case, including failing to properly review verifiable identification from voters. Sosebee further violated election law by destroying the first ballot application, which had another voter’s personal information with Lutz’s signature, the report said.

Paul Stanley, the attorney for Craig and Shanon Lutz, said in an email that the Lutzes “encourage Secretary (of State Brian) Kemp and the state Board of Elections to take swift action to restore the public faith in a fair and open election process in Hall County.” He said the Lutzes received the investigative report on Thursday.

The email said that Shanon Lutz followed the instructions of Sosebee and her staff at all times.

Stanley’s email said the state Board of Election would act on the findings at its meeting on May 14. Stanley was not immediately available for comment.

A spokesman with the Secretary of the State’s office said penalties and recommendations are decided on at the election board meetings. He said the Secretary of State’s office doesn’t comment on open investigations, but the office's website confirms there is a meeting scheduled for May 14.

In the second complaint, voters John and Patricia Lipscomb said they were placed in the wrong commission district. The investigation found that the precinct where the Lipscombs voted had a split in county commission districts and that about 60 residents on Holly Springs Road in Gillsville had incorrectly been placed in District 4 instead of District 3.

This story will be updated.


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