Secretary of State probes Gordon elections

alopez@macon.comDecember 3, 2013 

Investigators at the Secretary of State’s Office are looking into the city of Gordon’s November elections.

They are following up on complaints that some unqualified voters received illegal assistance in casting their ballots, said Cait Haygood, public affairs coordinator for the Secretary of State’s Office.

In the Nov 5. election, 628 people voted in the Gordon mayor’s race, and they elected challenger Mary Ann Lue over incumbent Kenneth Turner. The city’s population is 2,017, according to the last U.S. Census.

In a City Council race, eight candidates competed for three open seats. Doretha Whipple received the most votes (297), followed by Barbara Towles (265) and Tommy Smallwood (234).

Only three votes separated Smallwood from James Whipple, who came in fourth place.

Smallwood said he cast his ballot early on Election Day at the Gordon City Hall annex building, the lone polling place, and returned throughout the day to accompany family members who were voting.

“Quite a few people said they saw things,” Smallwood said, referring to the investigation. “I didn’t see anything.”

Haygood said her office can’t comment on the open investigation. She said the situation in Gordon is just one type of election complaint the Secretary of State’s Office handles, which oversees everything that happens at state polling places.

The office investigates as many as 200 election complaints during presidential election years, she said, and 70 to 100 complaints during non-presidential election years.

Wilkinson County Elections Superintendent Tracy Strange was not available for comment Tuesday and will be away from her office until Dec. 9.

Smallwood, 67, has served on the City Council since 1994 and said he doesn’t remember any problems taking place during previous elections.

The one thing he noticed Nov. 5, he said, was a decorated car full of campaign signs that was parked too close to the annex building. He said that was an indication of how competitive the eight-person City Council race was. Most of the candidates had run before, he said, and were well-known.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 478-744-4382.

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