EXCLUSIVE: Quitman County Ethics Complaint

July 16, 2008

QUITMAN COUNTY, Ga. (WXTX) - Some Quitman County residents are angry because they feel Tuesday's Sheriff's race was unfair.  There are now allegations that the Probate Judge allowed ballots to be taken out of the polling place to be counted.

Quitman County is just across the Chattahoochee River, near Eufaula, Alabama, and there may be troubled waters. Some voters, saying something went wrong in Tuesday's election.

I don't know the man. Never seen him. But I think elections should be fair and legal and that wasn't right from the get go," said Quitman County resident Jennifer Ming.

The big fuss is over the Sheriff's election between incumbent Lon Ming and Steve Newton.  Residents say the probate judge was not proper in handling the elections or the ballots, and Steve Newton's victory isn't fair.

His father in law was allowed to be in the polling area and his best friend was a poll worker. They were allowed to use their cell phones. They were allowed to leave and go smoking, one of them even went campaigning," said Ming.

FOX 54 went to the Probate Judge's Office searching for answers.

"Allegations that Mr. Newton may have had family members counting the ballots. Is that true or false," we asked.  "That is incorrect, said Quitman County Probate Judge Andrew Bennett.  "His father in law, was a certified poll watcher and he sat in a chair watching the members of the registrar committee count the ballots," he added.

Some poll workers say the absentee ballots were even taken outside of the courthouse before they were tallied.  Bennett denies that allegation, too.

"They were not taken away no sir they were not taken away from the courthouse."

Quitman County Chief Deputy Charles Davis said he was on duty at the polls all day.

Fox 54 asked, "So you actually saw Newton's supporter's counting the ballots?  "Yes they were counting the ballots and when the print out would come the will get on the cell phone and call someone. And they couldn't get the count right so they left the courtroom with the ballots," said Davis.  "When you say they, who are you talking about?"   "The judge and the poll workers. Ms. Butler, Mr. Kemp his daddy in law walked out with the ballots and walked in a couple of hours later."

Those complaints and allegations have been sent to the Secretary of State's office, where an investigation has been launched.

Meanwhile, those on both sides say they're standing by their stories.

The Secretary of State's office will make the final ruling.