Recount: Tisdale expands margin,
Harpole plans suit
By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Sept. 27, 2003
DEKALB Kemper County sheriff's candidate Johnny Harpole plans to file suit in Circuit Court challenging the August Democratic runoff after party officials ruled Friday he lost the race.
Bill Ready Jr., Harpole's attorney, said he could file suit next week. He said he believes the court will halt the November sheriff's election, allowing time to examine Harpole's charges of voting irregularities.
Ready added that the court could order a special election later this year or early next year.
The Kemper County Democratic Executive Committee certified incumbent Democrat Samuel Tisdale as the party nominee after disqualifying all absentee ballots cast in the Aug. 26 runoff.
In the subsequent recount, Tisdale received 2,118 votes, or 52 percent, and Harpole 1,959 votes, or 48 percent. Tisdale's 159-vote win was 119 more than the 40-vote margin he had before absentee ballots were voided.
Tisdale could not be reached for comment.
The Democratic Executive Committee decided to disqualify all absentee ballots after Harpole charged some were counted unlawfully because they were improperly completed or not notarized.
Earl Thomas, chairman of the committee, said his organization did the right thing by disqualifying the ballots. He said he was pleased with the final runoff results.
But Harpole and Ready said Thomas' committee didn't fully consider a complaint that also charged convicted felons voted and names of dead people appeared on voter sign-in lists at precincts.
The Democratic Executive Committee dismissed Harpole's other charges. Thomas said the committee was unable to find convicted felons who cast ballots or substantiate claims that dead people voted.
Asked about Harpole and Ready's plans to file suit in Circuit Court, Thomas said, "If Mr. Ready thinks he has time to run it through the courts, he's got a short time to do it in."
Ready agreed time is short.
The Nov. 4 general election for sheriff which also features independent candidates Rusty Calvert, Ronnie Rankin and Glen Williams is less than six weeks away.
Ready said he plans to ask the court to order a manual re-count of the August runoff election, allow him to show evidence of voting problems and then "fashion a proper remedy."
Harpole said the runoff problems have tainted all elections in the county.