District 2 council candidates discuss ballot issue, possible solutions

Published 9:03 am Friday, October 28, 2022

Most local voters know there was a mistake on the upcoming election ballot for LaGrange City Council District 2 that incorrectly designates the race as at-large. All voters in LaGrange will see the race on their ballot regardless of whether they are eligible to vote in District 2.

Local election leaders have promised that the mistake can be corrected and only the eligible votes will be counted, but many still believe the issue casts doubt on the election’s fairness.

The LaGrange Daily News reached out to the candidates to see what they would like to happen with the mistake, whether would they have an issue with the results if they lose and what needs to happen to believe the ballots were counted correctly.

Candidate Israel Barsh called for an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to remove the appearance of impropriety.

“We’re asking for an investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is to remove the appearance and potential of fraud, deceit or abuse of the election registration process,” Barsh said.

Barsh called for the investigation to guarantee against election fraud and enforce state election laws.

“Because when an election becomes corrupted, democracy becomes threatened,” he said.

Candidate Quay Boddie said he wants to make sure that the voting process as a whole is corrected, because not only will it affect this election, but for elections to come.

“It’s not about winning,” Boddie said. “It’s about making sure you are doing what’s right. Because I would rather win the right way than win the wrong way.”

Candidate Leon Childs said he would like to see some accountability for the mistake.

“I want to know from front to start, how did this happen? Who were the collaborators?” Childs asked. “I want some accountability for that person to be reprimanded or terminated.”

Candidate Ashley Cousin couldn’t be reached for the story, but she weighed in on the issue during the earlier candidate forum and called for accountability.

“A lot of people need to be held accountable for it,” Cousin said.

She said the mistake has caused a great deal of confusion, especially among young people whom she has tried to make it easier to vote.

“I still don’t understand how can someone be over the election for so long and this is something that you do,” she said.

Candidate Maiya Dowell said she would like to see an accurate recount and some type of reprimand from the elections office or department heads regarding the matter.

“I feel like there should be some type of checklist that is set in stone,” Dowell said.

“Regardless if there is an election board or regardless of if there isn’t, there still needs to be a check and balance.”

Different procedures need to be put in place to make sure this never happens again and ballots are thoroughly checked before they are sent out, Dowell said.

Barsh said he has talked with all four of the other candidates, and they are all concerned that the results might be insecure. The GBI would have to clear it and ensure that there was an accurate outside audit for him to feel secure about the vote, Barsh added.

Boddie said regardless of the outcome of the election, he would support the winning candidate.

“Win, lose or draw, I plan on backing and supporting [the winning candidate]. Don’t get me wrong, I want to win, but at the same time it’s not going to stop me from serving the community,” Boddie said.

Childs said he could like an outside entity to be involved and oversee the counting to better trust the results.

“There is no kind of trust or there’s no kind of confidence in the voting process right now,” Childs said.

Dowell said she predicts there will be a run-off first and then she will go from there.

“I would request that there be a recount of the votes automatically because of the situation and because of the issue that we had with the voting situation on the ballot,” Dowell said.

Out of transparency, Bill Stump, Chairman of the Troup County Board of Elections has invited anyone to come and view the vote count process. Stump has also said they would do a recount two weeks after the election regardless of the results.

Stump previously ensured the LaGrange City Council that the ballot mistake was just that, a mistake, indicating there was nothing nefarious about it.

LaGrange Councilman Nathan Gaskins asked Stump to call for an investigation at the council meeting on Tuesday out of transparency and trust.

“I don’t know how you investigate a mistake. If there had been some allegation of fraud that’s been committed, then I would say yes, let somebody come and take a look,” Stump said.
“This was a simple error on how the ballot was constructed.”

“We’re going to count the ballots, as we always do in public. We’ll do it again two weeks later and we’ll invite any and all folks to come,” Stump said.

Then if there’s some question of whether ballots were illegally counted or discrepancies on how District 1 ballots were removed, then they will call for an investigation, Stump said.