Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Darien Candidates File Suit; They Say They Lost the Mayoral and a Council Race Nov. 6 Because of Fraud

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

2 Darien Candidates File Suit; They Say They Lost the Mayoral and a Council Race Nov. 6 Because of Fraud

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROLE HAWKINS

Two failed candidates are contesting the Nov. 6 Darien election results, despite the fact that one lost by more than 20 percentage points.

In the petition filed Friday in McIntosh County Superior Court, mayoral candidate Griffin Lotson and City Council candidate Lauretta Sams ask the court to overturn the election, citing "misconduct, voter fraud and irregularity of [an] election official sufficient enough to place the election results in doubt."

Lotson lost his bid for mayor to Kelly Spratt, 538 votes to 349. Sams, the incumbent, lost her council seat to Karen Clark 201 votes to 168.

Bob Mucha, chairman of the county Board of Elections, said his staff was confident in the election results, especially because of the large margin of victory in the mayoral race.

"The election was held fair and square," he said. "We followed the laws very specifically. I think they're really stretching on this one."

In the petition Lotson and Sams cite an "abnormal and highly unusual" number of absentee ballots cast as grounds for contesting the election results. It also names five people who did not receive their voter registration cards and one person whose absentee ballot was rejected because of a misspelled name.

"Over 400 absentee ballots were cast. This represents a nearly 100 percent increase in absentee ballots," the petition states. This increase means as many as 200 ballots could be the result of fraud or irregularities, the petition alleges.

Mucha doesn't know if the petition is correct about the increase but doesn't see a problem even if it is.

"Just because there is an increase in absentee ballots, that doesn't presuppose it was fraud," he said.

Absentee ballots are mailed only to addresses on the voter registration cards or to voters' designated out of county locations, Mucha said. …

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