Over the past several months, our office has proudly represented Teresa Odum in a series of legal actions related to the Long County Probate Court election. Back in March, Ms. Odum came to our office seeking legal representation after her political opponent challenged her eligibility to qualify as a candidate in the Probate Court election. The Long County Board of Elections, the Superior Court of Long County, and the Georgia Supreme Court declined to disqualify Ms. Odum as a candidate in that race.
In June, Ms. Odum won the Probate Court election defeating the incumbent judge. The incumbent judge and losing candidate subsequently requested a recount. At the conclusion of the recount, it was determined that Judge-elect Odum was still the winner of the Probate Court election.
Shortly after the recount results were certified by the Secretary of State’s office, the losing candidate filed a Petition to Contest the Election Results and a Request for a New Election in Long County Superior Court. During a three day trial on that Petition, the losing candidate attempted to persuade the Court to effectively invalidate the validly-cast ballots of dozens of Long County citizens and to require Long County to hold a new election. Fortunately, the Court rejected the losing candidate’s attempt to set aside the election that he lost to Judge-elect Odum. It is our understanding that the losing candidate now seeks to appeal that ruling.
We will continue to fight to uphold the results of this election and to protect the voices of the voters of Long County. Below is a recent article about this case from the Fulton County Daily Report.
Long County Probate Judge Loses Suit for Do-Over Election in Race He Lost
The attorney representing the successful challenger to Long County Probate Judge Bobby Harrison Smith claimed Smith was attacking “the integrity of the electoral process.”
By R. Robin McDonald | December 04, 2020 at 05:56 PM
A superior court judge has rejected Long County Probate Judge Bobby Harrison Smith’s suit to set aside the June election that he lost to challenger Teresa Odum.
“None of the alleged irregularities is proven sufficiently to cast doubt on the results,” said Chatham County Superior Court Judge John Morse in denying Smith’s petition. “Overall, the evidence offered of voting irregularities … are not prolific enough or sufficiently proven to cast doubt on the election.”
Morse was assigned the case after the judges in the Atlantic Judicial Circuit, which includes Long County, recused.
Odum’s attorney, Luke Moses of Jones Osteen & Jones in Hinesville, said Smith’s decision to challenge his loss by alleging voter fraud was “a microcosm of what’s going on nationally.”
“I really feel like we had a case where the other side was trying to attack the integrity of the electoral process,” he said.
“If there is one good thing that comes out of a case like this, it’s that it reinforced the notion that our electoral process is secure: It works; the vote was a valid one. … I’m just glad the election was upheld.”
Jake Evans, an attorney with the Atlanta offices of Holland & Knight who represented Smith, said he was “disappointed and surprised,” given what he said was the judge’s “acknowledgment of double votes, flawed absentee ballots and applications and people voting in Long County that did not reside there.”
Evans also branded the order as “erroneous,” adding that it “eviscerates electoral protections in Georgia.”
Evans said he and Smith “are considering available options and seek to ensure that all candidates and voters have fair elections in Georgia.” Smith’s petition for a new election, filed July 1, came as Georgia elections were facing national scrutiny and criticism. The June 9 primary forced thousands of voters across the state to wait for hours in slow-moving, lengthy lines while risking exposure to COVID-19. Evans claimed that at least seven people voted twice in the election that Smith lost by nine votes.
The certified recount results showed that, of 2,741 votes, 1,375 votes were cast for Odum and 1,366 for Smith.
In his order, Morse held that six voters voted twice, although all but one did so inadvertently because their absentee ballots were not properly canceled out by county elections personnel. One person who allegedly cast a ballot but lived in another county was a relative of Smith. “For [Smith] to contend this vote should be credible evidence of an illegal or irregular cast vote is quite disingenuous,” Morse said.
Other allegedly unverified voters were able to produce appropriate identification, and those alleged to have voted in Long County while living elsewhere also demonstrated they were actually county residents, the judge said.
Morse said that none of the four categories of questioned votes “standing alone” was sufficient to overcome the margin of victory that would require a do-over election.
Smith, the judge concluded, “tends to fuse them with a systemic irregularity as a catch all claim to urge the court to invalidate this election.”