Judge Michael Karpf officially ordered an election ‘re-do’ in Screven County after ‘systemic irregularities‘ were discovered in the November 2022 election for County Commission. The decision comes nearly a month after an hours-long hearing which revealed issues in ballots issued to voters in some parts of Screven County.
On November 18, 2022, Screven County Commissioners Allison Willis and Mike Dixon, candidate for county commissioner in District 1 Tyler Thompson, Vicki T. Reddick, and Michael Lloyd Waters, filed a lawsuit against Elections Superintendent Debbie Brown, Elections Supervisor Hannah Derriso, and Commissioner Edwin Lovett. The five contended that the wrong ballots had been issued to at least two dozen voters in District 1, and that the incorrect ballots may have had an impact on the county commission race in that district that had a margin of just seven votes.
On December 4, 2022, attorneys for Brown, Derriso, and Lovett filed a response, arguing that they were the wrong parties to sue and that the Chief Registrar should be sued instead. Tenured Chief Registrar Dorothy Glisson was added to the suit shortly thereafter, but the plaintiffs did not drop the suit against the other three, in which they asked a judge to order a new election for the District 1 county commission race.
Just before Christmas, a hearing was held before Judge Michael Karpf, a senior judge who retired from Chatham County. At that time, parties testified at length about races which did and did not appear on their ballots. Attorneys for the county argued that the elections office did not bear the burden of ensuring voters had the correct ballots and claimed the election should not be ‘re-done’ because of twenty to forty people who did not get the correct ballot.
Karpf, however, handily rejected those arguments and admonished the position by the county.
“Twenty votes is sufficiently egregious because it could have changed the result,” Karpf said, before announcing he would be granting the Plaintiff’s Petition to set aside the elections. “Where some electors were entitled to vote but not allowed to and where other electors were allowed to vote when they shouldn’t have been…has illegality,”
During the December 22 hearing, Karpf asked attorneys to provide orders for him to sign following his decision to grant a request for a new election. He stated he would not file the order before the new year and wanted to give the Elections Office time to remedy the errors brought about from redistricting. But after weeks of no action, another hearing was scheduled for Monday morning. That’s when Karpf officially ordered the election to be set for Tuesday, June 20, 2023.
The Screven County Elections Facebook page posted a ‘Public Notice’ Monday afternoon sharing that “Incumbent Candidate Edwin Lovett and Candidate Tyler Thompson, who qualified for the November 8, 2022 Election for District 1 County Commissioner” would be subject to a new election. It also announced a notice of polling and precinct changes, which will be made final in March.
The June 20th election will not consider newly registered voters and will only be permitted for those who were registered to vote for the November 8, 2022 election.
Though Lovett’s term ended December 31, 2022, he will continue serving until the next election results are determined thanks to a local ordinance approved in 2002, which permits elected officials to continue representing their posts in situations such as this.
As previously reported: