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The Wilson County Board of Elections has recommended that the election should be held again for the office of mayor in Sharpsburg.
The board met and reached a preliminary conclusion after testimony was given at a hearing in the Wilson County Courthouse Thursday afternoon.
“Based on the testimony given today, there is substantial evidence that a violation of election law or other irregularity did occur and might have affected the outcome of the Nov. 7, 2017, election for the town of Sharpsburg position of mayor, and therefore we request of the state board to conduct a new election,” said board of elections member Chip Futrell, reading from the motion, which was passed unanimously by the board’s three members.
“Our conclusion goes to the state board, and they handle it. The Wilson County Board can not make a final decision,” said chairman Robert Brown. “It has to be submitted to the state for any final conclusions and action.”
Robert Williams of Sharpsburg, who filed the formal protest complaint on Nov. 21, said he was “satisfied, very much” after hearing the finding of the board.
“I’m elated,” Williams said. “It’s great.”
Williams was running against Mayor Randy Weaver.
The result of the Nov. 7 election found that Weaver had 139 votes, and Williams had 136 throughout the entire jurisdiction.
A portion of voters for Sharpsburg reside in Wilson County.
According to Williams’ complaint, several potential voters were turned away from the Elm City Elementary School polling place because the proper ballots were not available from about 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Williams said that poll workers apologized for the error, but that didn’t excuse the absence of ballots.
Williams testified that he agreed with the statement that there was an irregularity that could have affected the election.
Rene Morris, Wilson County Board of Elections director, said that 349 potential voters could have cast ballots in Wilson County for the election in Sharpsburg.
Morris explained that when she received a call from Toni Rucker, chief judge, that there were not sufficient ballots on hand at the precinct, she advised the poll workers to generate a list of those who wanted to vote and their telephone numbers so that they could return to the polling place once the ballots had arrived about 1 p.m.
“I told her that I would definitely get the ballots as soon as possible,” Morris said.
Rucker testified that the list of people who were at one point turned away included eight people.
Morris testified that she was able to telephone all of them but one to invite them back to the polls to vote. Morris said that six out of eight people returned to vote.
Rucker testified that some people who came intending to vote left without leaving their names and numbers.
Morris Garrett, a voter, testified that word spread that there were not ballots at the precinct, and some potential voters left without ever entering the polling place.
“It’s like going back to the 1960s or the 1950s. People were visibly upset,” Garrett said.
Morris was asked if she believed that the irregularities could have had an affect on the election result.
“Given three votes, yes, in my opinion,” Morris said.
The board recessed until Tuesday at 5 p.m. when they will meet at the offices of the Wilson County Board of elections to formulate a full written description of the hearing conclusion.