Mon., June 3, 2013 2:43pm (EDT)

Supreme Court Rules For Baker County Sheriff
By Ellen Reinhardt
Updated: 11 months ago

ATLANTA  —  
The State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Sheriff of Baker County. In an opinion released on Monday , the justices did not find enough irregularities in the sheriff's runoff election to order a new election. (photo courtesy of Brian Turner.)
The State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Sheriff of Baker County. In an opinion released on Monday , the justices did not find enough irregularities in the sheriff's runoff election to order a new election. (photo courtesy of Brian Turner.)
The State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Sheriff of Baker County. In an opinion released on Monday , the justices did not find enough irregularities in the sheriff's runoff election to order a new election.

In the 2012 Democratic primary for sheriff, the incumbent, Sheriff Dana Meade, received 35 percent of the vote. Tim Williamson received 48 percent and Kelly Smith received 17 percent. There were no Republican candidates and because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election was held between Williamson and Meade.

In the run-off, out of a total of 1,353 votes cast, Meade beat Williamson by 39 votes. Meade was declared the winner. Williamson contested the election results, claiming there were a number of irregularities. He claimed the sheriff and his supporters paid individual voters with money and liquor to cast votes for Meade. Williamson also alleged that the elections board allowed a known felon to assist eight voters in casting their ballots, and that 14 absentee ballots counted for the sheriff had been tampered with.

In a unanimous opinion issued Monday, Justice Robert Benham writes that the evidence "falls short of demonstrating systemic irregularities in the election process." He says "In the majority of cases in which this Court has affirmed an order setting aside an election, we have required the evidence to show that a sufficient number of electors voted illegally or were irregularly recorded in the contest being challenged to change or cast doubt upon the election. " Justices found that not enough votes could be challenged to make up the 39 vote difference.

The court also found the evidence of vote buying and alleged wrongful distribution of absentee ballots is largely speculative and is insufficient to cast doubt on the election results.