Copyright © 1985-2009. All rights reserved.

The Post is a Proud Member of the Alabama Press Association 
Free Classified Listings
Road Apples by Tim Sanders

Rob Rogers Political Cartoons
2009 Post Photo Patrol
Local Weather Information
Mike Rogers Archive
Weiss Lake Archive

Past News Archive
Obituary Listings
Contact Us

Weiss Lake Level
Weiss Lake Guide Service
Alabama Guide Service
J.R.'s Marina

Chamber of Commerce
Local Realtors & Appraisers
Town of Cedar Bluff
Cherokee Co. Circuit Clerk
Cherokee Historical Museum
J. Shane Givens, Esq.
Cherokee Co. Revenue Comm.

Georgia Highlands College
Gadsden State Comm. College
Cherokee County Schools

Cherokee County Commission
Alabama Legislature
Rep. Richard Lindsey
Sen. Larry Means
Rep. Mike Rogers
Sen. Richard Shelby
Sen. Jeff Sessions
The White House
President Barack Obama

EXCLUSIVE - May 18, 2009

Supreme Court: Cedar Bluff runoff election must come first

By Scott Wright

EXCLUSIVE — It wasn't so much a “do-over” that the Alabama Supreme Court issued late last week in the fight over absentee ballots in Cedar Bluff. Rather, it was more of a “keep going.”

The state high court declared in an 18-page ruling issued Friday afternoon that Alabama law does not grant the court system jurisdiction over contested election results until one candidate has been “declared elected.”

As a result, Etowah County Circuit Judge William Rhea's October 2008 decision to subtract “improperly delivered” absentee ballots from some of the town's municipal election results has been negated in two of three races.

According to the attorney representing three candidates involved in the lawsuit, Cedar Bluff will likely have to go ahead with a runoff election that Supreme Court justices admitted is “potentially unnecessary.”

“The Supreme Court ruled that you cannot contest an initial election until after someone has been elected,” said Centre attorney Shane Givens, whose clients have challenged dozens of questionable absentee votes. “So now Cedar Bluff will probably have to hold a runoff election.”

After those election results are certified, Givens explained, any candidate who wishes to challenge the vote totals will be able to initiate legal proceedings.

“So, for example, when the runoff is held you will have Ethel Sprouse running against Steve Lay, who unfortunately has passed away,” Givens said. “Then, if Jimmy Wallace wants to contest whether he should have been in the runoff, he can go ahead with that challenge.”

Givens said the Supreme Court ruling primarily affects Dist. 1 candidate Evan Smith, the only person involved in the election who appealed Judge Rhea's ruling. But he said other candidates will ultimately benefit from the ruling because the case has set a precedent in Alabama.

“Never in the state has there been an election contest that asked the identical legal questions as this one,” he said. “This case was a first, in that regard.”

Rhea ruled last October that over 30 absentee ballots picked up at the town hall by agents of several candidates were illegally distributed and should be discounted from the final tally.

Rhea tossed out eight absentee votes for Smith, which left Billie Burkhalter the winner in the three-way District 1 Town Council race. In District 2, 13 absentee ballots cast for Donald Sanders were tossed out, leaving sole challenger Lenora McWhorter the winner.

In the mayor's race, 18 absentee votes cast for the since-deceased Lay were negated, bumping challenger Wallace into second place and a runoff with top vote-getter Sprouse.

With the ruling by the Supreme Court, however, a runoff election with the initial top two voter-getters in the mayoral and District 1 races will have to be held before any legal challenges can proceed.

“Judge Rhea's ruling should stand in the Dist. 2 race because McWhorter was the outright winner,” Givens said.

Cedar Bluff Mayor Martha Baker said she does not yet know when the runoff election might be held.

“We will consult with our lawyers,” she said. “I believe there is a waiting period after the election is announced before it can take place. We will check on that and make an announcement next week.”