NEWTON — Senior Superior Court Judge Loring Gray will preside over a lawsuit filed in Baker County alleging election fraud stemming from the Baker County Sheriff’s race.
Baker County Superior Court Clerk Betty Bush told The Albany Herald Friday that Gray, the former chief Superior Court judge for the Dougherty Circuit, had been appointed to hear the case filed by candidate Tim Williamson against incumbent Baker Sheriff Dana Meade and the Baker County Elections Board.
According to court documents, Williamson is contesting a runoff election held Aug. 21 that he lost to Meade.
Among the allegations leveled by Williamson are that absentee ballots were mishandled and illegally counted to the degree that it could have an impact on the results of the election.
Williamson is seeking an order invalidating the results of the runoff or declaring him the Democratic nominee for the office.
In a statement, Williamson said filing the legal action was done reluctantly.
“I do not take this step lightly. In fact, I do so reluctantly because I am not filing this election contest because I am upset with or mad about the announced results of the run-off election,” he wrote. “I have no problem with abiding by the wishes of the voters; however, so many people have contacted me over the last week or 10 days telling me about irregularities in the election that I feel it is in the best interest of the people of Baker County to allow our Courts to decide whether the election was legal, fair and impartial.
“As I stated, I am not taking this step lightly, and I am certainly not taking this step because I did not win the run-off. Rather, I am taking this step because I think the people of Baker County are best served by legal elections where the results are not tainted and the people can be comfortable knowing that their votes were counted fairly and honestly.”
Flin Coleman, the attorney representing the Baker County Board of Elections, said he’s filed an answer to Williamson’s complaint.
“Based on the complaint, we believe the elections staff operated as they should have,” Coleman said. “We don’t have anything that suggests otherwise.”
The suit is running concurrent with a separate investigation by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office into possible vote-buying during the same election.
According to documents obtained by The Herald Friday, Ronnie Smith filed an official complaint with Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office alleging he was paid $100 to vote for a candidate. The form doesn’t say which candidate was alleged to have purchased the vote, but does say the case was assigned to an investigator Aug. 17.