Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hearing under Way in Sheriff Vote; McIntosh Margin 36 Votes; Judge Weighs Whether Problems Warrant New Election

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hearing under Way in Sheriff Vote; McIntosh Margin 36 Votes; Judge Weighs Whether Problems Warrant New Election

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson, The Times-Union

DARIEN -- A judge conducting a hearing on whether to throw out the McIntosh County sheriff's election heard testimony Thursday that some people voted more than once, that absentee ballots were issued improperly and that unauthorized people handled ballots.

Senior Superior Court Judge William Neville will decide whether to order a new election in the race between Sheriff Charles "Chunk'' Jones and County Commissioner Stephen Jessup. A recount the week after the Nov. 2 election showed Jessup losing by 36 votes.

The trial got off to an unusual start as Neville, mindful of the discomfort of elderly or ill witnesses, allowed them to testify quickly and leave.

The first was 85-year-old Lamar Leggett, who needed assistance to stand.

Asked if he voted, Leggett said he didn't even know who the sheriff was.

Leggett said he had an absentee ballot, but couldn't remember how he had voted.

"Mr. Bailiff,'' Neville said. "He can leave here and he needn't come back.''

Following Leggett was a man with a hay fever mask who said he had a severe cold or the flu.

That set off a rush of sorts as Neville allowed Jessup's witnesses to take the oath en masse and wait in line in the courtroom to testify. Jessup's lawyer, Adam Poppell III, asked them only to verify they had voted absentee.

Leggett's ballot, however, is one of several that Poppell asserts was handled improperly by County Commissioner Boyd Gault.

Gault testified that he handled Leggett's ballot as well as those of two other neighbors, Hubert and Mary Hurst, and those of his father and at least one other relative.

The Hursts testified that they asked Gault to mail their ballots.

Gault testified that he was not aware that he could not mail ballots for others and acknowledged he did so for others. He couldn't remember how many, but estimated it was more than 10. …

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