State Probing County Elections Coffee, Bacon Primaries under Investigation

Article excerpt

Coffee and Bacon counties are among 14 counties whose primary elections are under scrutiny by the Georgia Secretary of State's office.

"It's a full plate," spokesman Chris Riggall said of the investigations. "There could always be more."

The investigations into possible election improprieties in Bacon and Coffee began three weeks before the July 18 primary and has continued ever since, Riggall said.

Riggall would not reveal what triggered the probes but said they sometimes stem from complaints by voters, candidates or election officials.

Both Coffee and Bacon counties had heavy absentee voting. In the runoff of the Democratic primary for Coffee County sheriff, 864 ballots were cast, 469 for Sheriff Carlton Evans and 360 for Rob Smith. Because no Republicans are running, Smith will be the new sheriff come Jan. 1.

Coffee County Probate Judge Troy C. Paul said his office counted 753 absentee ballots in the primary. In neighboring Bacon County, 487 voters cast absentee ballots in the runoff for sheriff that Richard Foskey won over Johnny L. "Bucky" Heys.

"They haven't discussed it with us. I don't know what they're looking at," Paul said of the probe.

The investigators came by his office for a list of those who voted absentee in the primary but haven't asked for a list from the runoff, he said.

Mary Wheeler, Bacon County's chief deputy voter registrar, said she hasn't spoken with the investigators but that they had talked with members of the Board of Registrars.

Voter registrars are responsible for issuing absentee ballots in most small Georgia counties that do not have boards of elections.

Riggall said absentee ballots and assisting voters are ways that people can buy votes or intimidate voters. …