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Election challenge is groundless, court told

A hearing concerning the Thomson mayoral election was held Wednesday in McDuffie County Superior Court.

Candidate Delmar "Brink" Bradshaw filed a complaint against the McDuffie County Board of Elections and the City of Thomson contesting the Nov. 8 mayoral election.

Bradshaw's complaint said that voting irregularities occurred. The irregularity named in the complaint was that incumbent Mayor Kenneth Usry went into all three city polling places.

At Wednesday's hearing, Bradshaw represented himself. The city and county were represented by their respective attorneys, Jimmy Plunkett and Sammy Fowler. Senior Judge Lindsay Tice of Hart County presided over the hearing, which opened with Plunkett asking the judge to dismiss the case because Bradshaw's reasons for contesting the election were not valid, not being legal reasons that are listed in the code section of Georgia law.

Plunkett and Fowler listed the applicable code section and read the valid reasons to contest an election, and none were reasons that Bradshaw had given.

The judge then allowed Bradshaw to say why he thought the case should not be dismissed. Bradshaw said he believed voters were disenfranchised in the city election. Without an attorney, Bradshaw was not sure how to proceed and the court could not direct him about what he should do next, but gave him an opportunity to speak.

Bradshaw did call two witnesses. He asked Elections Director Kelvin Williams whether he had complaints about possible poll violations occurring at the three city election sites. Williams said he was aware only of the complaints that Bradshaw had e-mailed him about throughout election day. Williams said he was in contact with the state elections office about the problems throughout the day and in the days following the election.

Bradshaw also claimed that voters were not given a fair amount of notice about polling locations changing. Williams said that his office more than complied with the legal 30-day notice of a polling location change. Notice about the changes in polling places was given as early as late June. City Clerk Dianne Landers sent information to all media outlets, and city council members discussed the changes at various meetings leading up to the city election.

Williams' office also ran legal ads, posted the changes on the old polling sites on election day and even sent out notices by mail to all affected voters at least a month before the election.

Bradshaw claimed that voter turnout at Bethel Church was low because voters were disenfranchised. Bradshaw asked Williams why so few voters turned out at the Bethel precinct. There are more than 600 registered voters in that district and only 29 voted on election day. Williams said that he believed it was because voters were not interested in the election.

On cross-examination, county attorney Fowler asked Williams whether he had talked with his poll workers about any irregularities and Williams said that he had. The only one reported was the mayor entering the polling places. Williams said under oath that the poll workers said no one was in the precinct at the time the mayor came in to the old courthouse and that he did not campaign or make himself obvious in any way. The mayor asked how things were going, and left, Williams said.

Nothing the mayor did, Fowler and Williams said, affected the votes.

Fowler again said that the case should be dismissed because, even if Usry did enter the polling places, that was no reason to contest an election. He cited a court decision on a similar situation.

Bradshaw then called Usry to the stand. He asked Usry whether he had, in fact, entered the polling places on election day and Usry answered yes.

Bradshaw asked Usry whether he thought any voters were influenced by his doing so and Usry said not to his knowledge.

Judge Tice asked the two parties to write orders addressing why they believe they are right. Those orders must be submitted in one week.

Tice will make his decision after reviewing the orders.

Web posted on Thursday, November 24, 2011

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