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Former candidate won't face charges for Facebook photo of ballot

Posted: August 24, 2012 - 10:56am

Twitter @ValerieRowell

Former Columbia County commission candidate Lee Benedict won’t be prosecuted locally for posting a photo of his ballot on Facebook.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said Friday that her office will not pursue charges against Benedict.

“We’ve passed it on to the Secretary of State’s office,” Wright said.

Any action taken in connection to the incident will be by the Secretary of State’s office, she said.

Benedict, who was running against District 2 incumbent Trey Allen, posted a photo of the electronic screen of the voting machine showing a vote for himself. Allen won the election with nearly 70 percent of the vote.

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.

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

Someone notified the Board of Elections chairman two days later.

A board member called Benedict, who denied knowing about the ban on cell phones and cameras.

The board held a called meeting on July 17 and opted to allow the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to investigate it and a similar incident. The investigation was completed July 20 and forwarded to Wright’s office.

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.

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

Gay said she was informed of a similar incident on July 16. Gay received printed copies from the Facebook page of an intern for Rick Allen’s 12th Georgia Congressional District campaign. The printouts showed the staffer had also posted a photo of his ballot.

That photo had already been removed by the time board members tried to confirm it.

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Comments (3)

Dixieman

This is news?

El tempesto in el teapot-o. Must be a very slow news day in Columbia County today.

Barry Paschal

We have an obligation, and the public has an expectation

Whenever a story is written regarding an investigation, don't you expect a follow-up story to provide an ending? We have an obligation to tie up such loose ends, and those who are the subject of such stories certainly deserve the follow-through. Whether you think this particular story is compelling or not, certainly you don't disagree with that assessment.

Little Lamb

Forgiveness

Okay, Richmond County has forgiven David Fry for attempting to bribe commissioners; Columbia County has forgiven Lee Benedict for taking forbidden photos; now it is time for McDuffie County to forgive Mitchell Sivas. Fair is fair.

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