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State report: Violations found in Hall primary vote

May hearing to review claims that voter cast ballots twice, plus other accusations

POSTED: April 20, 2013 12:39 a.m.

The state board of elections will meet next month to decide what action, if any, to take after a preliminary investigation by the Secretary of State’s office found 14 potential violations of election law in connection with last July’s general primary in Hall County.

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

The report found that Charlotte Sosebee, Hall’s elections director, and two poll workers violated regulations by allowing at least one voter to vote twice and that three voters either signed incorrect absentee ballots or failed to sign ballots at all.

The election office also was 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 at the polls.

Any penalties or recommendations will be decided at the next State Election Board meeting, which is currently scheduled for May 14.

Hall County will be on the agenda for that meeting, said Christopher Perlera, external affairs and outreach coordinator for the Georgia Secretary of State office. The case is still considered open and the office had no further comment.

Sosebee told The Times she didn’t know about investigative report. She said she didn’t believe she violated the law.

“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, wife of Commissioner Craig Lutz. The investigation concluded that she violated state election law by voting twice. The report also said poll workers Keri Jones and Lewis Martin were liable for Lutz’s violations and a series of other violations in the case, including failing to properly review verifiable identification from voters.

Sosebee further violated election law by destroying Lutz’s first ballot application, which had another voter’s personal information with Lutz’s signature, the report said.

Sosebee and the Hall County Board of Registration and Elections violated election law seven times, the report said.

Paul Stanley, 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 Thursday. Stanley didn’t return a call for comment.

Hall County Administrator Randy Knighton said he believes the county’s election process is open and fair. He declined to comment further, saying he had not yet read the report.

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

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 commission districts and that about 60 residents on Holly Springs Road in Gillsville had incorrectly been placed in District 4 instead of District 3.

District 4 Commissioner Jeff Stowe said his primary race against former Commissioner Ashley Bell wasn’t affected by the mistake. Stowe won by more than 500 votes.

“Even if all those 60 people had voted for me and shouldn’t have, I still would have won by more than 400 votes,” he said. “There’s no way it would have impacted my race.”

Efforts to reach the Lipscombs were unsuccessful.


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