An elections complaint against the city of Comer has been forwarded to the Georgia Attorney General’s office for review.
Comer resident Brad Cannon filed a complaint with the Office of Inspector General against the city in October after he cast an absentee ballot in person prior to the Nov. 3 municipal election. He alleged that there was only one poll worker present, that he was instructed to deposit his ballot in the ballot box without enclosing it in an envelope and that the ballots in the box may not have been secure since there was a one-inch by four-inch slot in the box.
According to the report from the Secretary of State’s Office of Inspector General, investigator Steve McBrayer said the Comer ballot box did not appear to be secured during the election.
“There was a locked padlock on the ballot box, but the latch was not securely closed and therefore the ballot box was unlocked and could be opened,” the Inspector General’s report stated. “The ballot box had a slot on the top that was approximately one inch wide and four inches long. The Election Superintendent said that he had no idea the ballot box was unlocked.”
Former Comer City Clerk Steve Sorrells, who also served as the city’s election superintendent during the November election before retiring at the end of the year, declined comment on the complaint, directing questions on the matter to Comer city attorney James Roberts. Roberts had not returned phone calls to his office as of press time.
McBrayer also reported that the city failed to have the required three absentee ballot clerks at the absentee ballot precinct at all times during early voting. He reported that there were six ballots in the ballot box when he investigated the complaint and that “none were enclosed in envelopes.”
“The Election Superintendent said that he didn’t know that he was supposed to use absentee ballot envelopes,” the inspector general’s report stated.
McBrayer reported a number of other violations, such as failure of poll workers to show a badge with name and office, failure to complete required oaths, failure to enter on an absentee ballot the date the ballot was mailed, failure to validate the signature of an applicant on an absentee ballot application with the signature on the voter’s registration card, failure to maintain a master list with name and residence of every elector to whom an official ballot was sent, failure to post a card of instruction in or about the voting room outside the enclosed space and failure to have sample ballots available for public inspection.
Russ Willard, spokesman for the Georgia Attorney General’s office, said the case has been forwarded to that office for review.
“We do have the file in and we’re in the process of reviewing it,” said Willard. “After our review is complete, we’ll reach out to the opposing sides’ attorneys to determine whether there is a possibility of reaching a consent decree and present that before the full state elections board. If not, we’ll work that case file up and send it over for an administrative hearing.”
Willard said he had no timeframe on how long the review could take.
“It depends on the complexity of the case,” said Willard. “Could be next week, could be a couple of months down the road.”