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Sheriff will investigate candidate posting Facebook photo of ballot

Posted: July 17, 2012 - 1:02pm  |  Updated: July 17, 2012 - 4:10pm
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Columbia County Board of Elections member Neal Johnson, alongside Registration Coordinator Nancy Gay, discuss the photo Commission candidate Lee Benedict posted of his advance voting ballot last week. Board members opted at Tuesday's meeting to allow the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to investigate the posting and a second similar incident.   Photo By Valerie Rowell
Photo By Valerie Rowell
Columbia County Board of Elections member Neal Johnson, alongside Registration Coordinator Nancy Gay, discuss the photo Commission candidate Lee Benedict posted of his advance voting ballot last week. Board members opted at Tuesday's meeting to allow the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to investigate the posting and a second similar incident.

Twitter @ValerieRowell

 

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is being asked to investigate whether Columbia County Commission candidate Lee Benedict violated election law by posting a photo of his ballot on Facebook.

Two members of the county Board of Elections met with county attorney Doug Batchelor Tuesday to discuss their response to Benedict’s photo posting. Batchelor recommended referring the incident and a another voter’s similar incident to the sheriff’s office.

“There doesn’t seem to me to be any criminal intent,” Batchelor said.

Benedict is running against District 2 incumbent Trey Allen on the Republican ballot. He previously made three unsuccessful bids for state House, state Senate and the Columbia County School Board.

Board of Elections Chairman Larry Long said someone notified him about the photo Friday. Benedict allegedly posted a photo of the electronic screen of the voting machine showing a vote for himself.

Georgia law prohibits use of cameras or phones within the enclosed voting space at a polling location.

Benedict voted on July 11 at the Board of Elections office in Evans, and the photo was posted on his Facebook page later that day.

A large, bright-orange sign explaining that cell phones and cameras are banned from the voting booths hangs in the office and at every polling location, said Nancy Gay, Board of Elections registration coordinator. Another symbol on the door shows cell phone use is prohibited inside the office.

“I don’t know how many people know you’re not allowed to do that,” Gay said. “It is required for us, at all the voting precincts, to have it posted. It is bright in color for a purpose.”

The law specifically allows media access to voting precincts at the discretion of poll managers, but prohibits any photos of voting screens.

Long said he called Gay, then fellow board member Neal Johnson. Johnson called Benedict and explained the violation. Johnson said Benedict denied knowing about the ban on cell phones and cameras.

“I told him the best thing he could do in his behalf was to remove it immediately,” Johnson said at the meeting. “If he chose, he should issue some sort of apology that he was unaware that it wasn’t supposed to be done and that sort of thing. ... I guess he got a change of mind. He never did issue the apology, but he did remove (the photo).”

When residents vote at the Board of Elections office, the voting machines are set up in a conference room, apart from the office area and staff. In the voting locations, several poll staffers are right behind the voters.

Gay said she was informed of a second similar incident on Monday. Someone brought in printed copies from the Facebook page of a staffer on Rick Allen’s 12th Georgia Congressional District campaign. The printouts showed that the staffer also posted a photo of his ballot.

That photo had already been removed Monday when Long tried to confirm it.

“I believe the young individual caught wind that is was a no-no before it even got to our ears,” Gay said.

Once the sheriff’s office investigation is complete, Batchelor said investigators will turn the findings over to District Attorney Ashley Wright, who ultimately will decide whether to prosecute.

O.C.G.A. § 21-2-413 (2012)

(e) No person shall use photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones while such person is in a polling place while voting is taking place; provided, however, that a poll manager, in his or her discretion, may allow the use of photographic devices in the polling place under such conditions and limitations as the election superintendent finds appropriate, and provided, further, that no photography shall be allowed of a ballot or the face of a voting machine or DRE unit while an elector is voting such ballot or machine or DRE unit and no photography shall be allowed of an electors list, electronic electors list, or the use of an electors list or electronic electors list. This subsection shall not prohibit the use of photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones by poll officials for official purposes.

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Comments (6)

soapy_725

and these juvenils

want to represent me. they want positions of responsibility and upholding laws and they do not have a clue. they do not know the bounds of their districts. they do not abide by littering laws, perjury, truth in advertising and the list is endless. they do not honor vows taken before God. They do not pay their taxes. They hop from one election to the other hoping to find a void. Even a temporary void. God's wrath must already be upon us in the CSRA. Mid-Trib and Post-Trib preachers must be encouraged.

soapy_725

Collectively they are

all a bunch of sick sh____s. No criminal intent. Here we go again in CC with leaders who claim "to know the heart of man". Hey. Wonder where they go to church, what religious books they read and who is their religious counselor. If church attendance is a positive for a pure heart, then we can throw out a lot of cases and free the prisoners. How did CC know the Greenbrier girls intent was to do harm? Or the many DUI's? Who gets the pass in CC? The mind police are alive and well. They have been disguised, but now we know they can actually understand the intent of the heart because they tell us they can. This explains a lot of sentences passed down by the courts. The judges can see into the heart. They cannot let you look at "past bad acts", but they can miraculously determine intent. Motive, means and opportunity can go away. Case law and clairvoyance can rule.

overburdened_taxpayer

Criminal Intent

Hey Soapy, get off your box. Criminal intent is defined in the criminal codes of Georgia and that is what the police, sheriffs and prosecutors have to go by. It doesn't have anything to do with giving somebody a pass, it has to do with the written laws of Georgia.

allhans

I don't know the people

I don't know the people involved, but come on..They have to have known better.
At the same time, how did it get by the election office personnel. They are required to pay attention...

soapy_725

early voting in another room

to vote. You get your card and you go into a different room from the workers signing in other voters. Completely out of their site. And if there were not intent, then why not photograph self entering the polling place and the whole experience. The vote on SPLOTS would have been more noteworthy photo.

soapy_725

it is a "soap box"

an old English public forum where you are elevated above the crowd to engage in debate. Free speech. Still practiced in England.

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