State Rep. Dan Gasaway (R-Homer) is seeking a new election after discovering that dozens of primary voters in Habersham County allegedly received the wrong ballot.
The three-term incumbent lost to former Banks County School Superintendent turned construction business director Chris Erwin in the May 22 primary.
Erwin received 3,111 votes in the primary to Gasaway’s 3,044 – a winning margin of 67 votes.
Gasaway filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that at least that same number of votes were illegally cast by voters who were given the wrong ballots.
Habersham County is part of two State House Districts – 10 and 28. The lawsuit alleges that some District 28 voters received District 10 ballots and vice-versa. The number of “misallocated” votes is sufficient to “change or place in doubt” the result, the lawsuit claims.
Defendants and discovery
The suit names Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Habersham County Elections Supervisor Laurel Ellison, and Erwin as defendants.
Attorneys for Gasaway filed the lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court because that’s where Kemp resides.
Gasaway says he was first made aware of the issue when a voter in his district told him he wasn’t able to vote for him because his ballot had House District 10 Rep. Terry Rogers’ name on it.
Using voter registration data provided by the Secretary of State’s Office, Gasaway plotted the location of voters on a map. He found at least 350 voters in Habersham County are assigned to the wrong State House District, according to the lawsuit.
“After study, we realized this was not an isolated incident,” Gasaway tells Now Habersham. “This is something that should concern all citizens. A citizen’s right to vote a correct ballot is the foundation of our democracy.”
“The fact that Rep. Gasaway has identified that many misplaced voters is obviously of great concern,” Rep. Rogers tells Now Habersham. “Anything that might affect the integrity of our voting system is completely unacceptable.”
Gasaway faced stiff opposition and criticism from local GOP leaders and local media in his bid for re-election. He’s aware there are those who will perceive this lawsuit as “sour grapes” over having lost the election. However, he insists the issue is much bigger and more important than that. It’s about the integrity of our electoral process.
“For those who have called me “sour grapes” in response to this litigation, I will say this – Americans have fought and died for the right to vote. People who do not take this issue seriously are disrespecting all our veterans and our democracy.”
At least one of the alleged misassigned voters agrees. He spoke with Now Habersham after the primary. “This is not a Dan thing. People should have the right to vote for who they’re supposed to vote for. We feel cheated,” he said.
Now Habersham reached out to Habersham County Elections Supervisor Laurel Ellison for comment. She referred us to Habersham County Manager Phil Sutton. Sutton says, “I am not at liberty to discuss any currently active litigation.”
A new rep or a new race?
As for what he hopes to accomplish with this lawsuit, Rep. Gasaway says, “I hope the judge will order the Habersham County election office to correct the issues. In addition, I hope the judge will order a new election to replace the illegal election.”
Erwin told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he’s unaware of any voters who were given the wrong ballot, except those he heard about through news reports.
“The secretary of state has certified the race and has named me the winner,” Erwin said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity of serving in Atlanta.”
Election results were certified on May 31, one day after the State Board of Elections opened an investigation into the House District 28 race. A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office says that investigation is ongoing.