Sunday August 18th, 2019 11:45PM

Elections officials from Banks, Habersham testify in Gasaway election challenge lawsuit

By Rob Moore Reporter
  Contact Editor

HOMER – Thursday was another full day of evidence presentation in the lawsuit filed to challenge the Dec. 4 Georgia House District 28 Special Election.

That new election was a “re-do” ordered late last year after then-Rep. Dan Gasaway of Banks County lost to challenger Chris Erwin and filed a legal challenge. The Court determined there were enough voting irregularities in the initial House District 28 race to cast doubt on the results of that election.

The new election was set for Dec. 4 and, after that election was decided by only two votes and in Erwin’s favor, Gasaway again filed a lawsuit challenging the new election, also claiming irregularities and errors.

This week, witnesses on both sides have testified what did and didn’t happen correctly in that contest.

On Thursday, Erwin attorney Brian Tyson called to the stand Banks County Elections Supervisor and Registrar Andra Phagan, who has served as the county’s registrar for nearly 13 years, asking Senior Judge David Sweat to allow her to testify as an expert witness as to how local elections and voter registration are conducted.

Tyson asked Phagan about each of the households of the 21 voters Gasaway’s attorney is questioning in the lawsuit.

Admitted into evidence were voter records for those voters, though most were over the objection of Gasaway attorney Jake Evans, who argued the Georgia Department of Driver Services records for voters that Phagan maintains in voter files are not under her control and therefore are not business documents she routinely uses in the course of her daily work.

Much of the discussion again centered around several voters who live at or near a county line.

Phagan explained a particular challenge she faces on Dan Waters Road at the Banks and Jackson County line, where three of the households named in Gasaway’s lawsuit reside.

She said Banks County Commissioners previously made a deal to bring property on one side of the road into Banks County but stipulated it would be voluntary upon request of the property owners rather than a mandatory transfer.

“The agreement was made that the road would be the county line, but it was not an automatic taking in of property,” Phagan said.

Residents could choose to remain in Jackson County.

After hearing from the judge about scheduling and the need to finish the case, Tyson called Habersham County Election Supervisor and Chief Registrar Laurel Ellison after the lunch break.

Ellison was asked about specific voters included in Gasaway’s legal challenge.

Ellison explained the process of a voter challenge, saying it normally happens before an election, not after.

The last witness of the day was Banks County Chief Appraiser Vicky Krieg, who testified she doesn’t know what House district a property falls into but can tell whether a property is in Banks County or outside.

Shown a property record for Jack and Peggy Stewart of 2209 Westbrook Road, Commerce, Kreig said the property is on the Banks County Tax Digest, has a homestead exemption and is taxed in Banks County.

Kreig also testified that the Stewarts’ property and Sheriff Carlton Speed’s family’s home both lay totally within Banks County based on the official Banks County GIS Map.

Tyson will continue his case on Friday with the introduction of several more witnesses.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News, Politics, Georgia News
  • Associated Tags: Banks County, Stephens County, Habersham County, Election, lawsuit, Chris Erwin, Dan Gasaway
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