A Judge has ordered that a new runoff election take place for the Ward 1 Alderman seat in Aberdeen after finding evidence of fraud and criminal activity in how absentee ballots were handled and counted.
Last July, Robert Devaull filed an election contest against his opponent Nicholas Holliday, who was certified as the winner of the Ward 1 Alderman seat with a 37 vote margin. However, in a recent ruling, Judge Jeff Weill said that 66 of the 84 absentee ballots cast in the election should not have been counted. One of the main concerns was the amount of irregularities Judge Weill’s’ found in absentee ballots, leading him to issue a bench warrant for Dallas Jones who had notarized the ballots. During the hearing, Jones admitted to violating notary duties and testified that she was called to then Alderwoman Lady Garth’s home to help correct her father’s absentee ballot paperwork and that whilst she was there she also notarized “about 30 something ballots.”
Lydia Quarles, attorney for Robert Devaull stated that, “When you have an absentee ballot, there’s an envelope, you vote, fold the ballot, put it in an envelope, lick the flap, sign across the flap, then notary signs your election certificate, she testified that she didn’t sign in front of anybody, didn’t see anybody sign it, she just notarized it, just stamped them.” The court documents state that “an election in which 66 ballots have been handled erroneously and in which the winner led by only 37 votes is an election in which these erroneously accepted or rejected ballots could change the results of the election. Since no one knows who those 66 ballots were voted for, it is clear that the will of the voters is impossible to discern, and there can be no confidence in the integrity of the outcome of the vote.”
As part of their justification for calling a new election. Judge Weill also said that there was clear evidence of voter intimidation and harassment. State law says that candidates and supporters must stay at least 150 feet away from the polling place. In the ruling the judge said Holliday, along with Police Chief Henry Randle, and former Mayor Maurice Howard acted as if they were above the law, repeatedly violating criminal statutes. Devaull said that he hopes the Judge’s order will result in a fair contest for the seat saying “It was always a lot of distraction in Ward 1, that’s what I said earlier, I would like to see, going forward, that be cleaned up, people being able to come and go, vote for who they want to.”
ARTICLE: NATHAN REID
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WTVA