Putnam sheriff not out-of-the-woods yet

If Gator DeLoach thought his battle to hold on to the seat of sheriff in neighboring Putnam County was over after winning a decision in circuit court, he would be mistaken.  DeLoach was elected as a Democrat in the November 2016 General Election in Putnam County; a squeaky close race against Republican challenger, Jonathan Kinney.

At first call, Kinney was announced as the winner of the race by a margin of 18 votes, before ultimately losing the race by 16 votes after the recounts were concluded.

Today, Kinney’s attorney, Zachery Lucas Keller of Keller Legal in Palatka, filed a 55-page initial brief with the Fifth District Court of Appeal.  The appeal is seeking relief in the form of a judgment of ouster to remove Homer D. “Gator” DeLoach III from office.

Defending the appeal from the Circuit Court, for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, in and for Putnam County Florida, is the Putnam County Canvassing Board, by and through its members Nancy Harris, Elizabeth Ann Morris, and Charles L. Overturf, III; as well as DeLoach.

At issue in the challenge is the fact that in the 2016 General Election for Putnam County sheriff, 42-votes were illegal. In a race decided by 16-votes, 42-votes necessarily creates absolute doubt in the true outcome of the election requiring the election be overturned.

In the instant case, Kinney identified six categories of illegal votes.

They included:

  • Convicted felons who had not had their civil rights restored (32)
  • Vote-by-mail ballots cast by deceased voters (3)
  • Late vote-by-mail votes cast after the statutory deadline (2)
  • Vote-by-mail ballots cast by non-residents of putnam county (3)
  • A ballot cast by an individual adjudicated mentally incompetent who had not had the right to vote restored (1)
  • A vote-by-mail ballot cast by an individual who cast a ballot in both putnam county, florida and in the state of new jersey in the 2016 general election (1)

Voter fraud and disputes over illegal votes are not a new phenomenon. Florida courts have been issuing opinions on how to handle illegal votes since the legislature set out a statutory cause of action to challenge the results of an election.

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