Lawyer claims dead voters among problems in contested sheriff race

Opponent claims fraud in Putnam race that flipped after ballots found

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. - A lawyer for the man whose bid for Putnam County sheriff came up just short last fall claimed in a lawsuit hearing Tuesday that there was voter fraud in the county's election.

Attorney Zachery Keller told the Clay County judge hearing the legal challenge to the election that his team had developed evidence that 42 ballots were cast by convicted felons, dead voters and by some voters after the polls had closed.

The document Keller filed said there were:

  • 19 mail-in ballots by convicted felons who have not had their voting rights restored
  • 13 ballots by convicted felons who have not had their voting rights restored
  • 3 ballots from people listed as deceased
  • 2 mail-in ballots received after the deadline
  • 3 ballots from non-residents of Putnam County
  • 1 ballot by a person who also voted in New Jersey
  • 1 ballot by a person who is mentally incompetent and has not had voting rights restored

Keller said those 42 "illegal votes" exceeded the 16-vote margin of victory substantially.

Republican challenger Jon Kinney filed an election contest complaint Monday against the Putnam County Canvassing Board.

The initial results showed Republican Jon Kinney with an 18-vote lead over Democrat Gator DeLoach. But during a recount, 428 additional ballots were found that had not been entered into the voting machines.

When the recount was done, DeLoach had a 16-vote lead. He was sworn into office in January.

Kinney filed a legal challenge to the election.

Among his reasons for questioning the final tally were “irregularities with the registration of voters by the Supervisor of Elections, mathematical errors in the certified election results, and the 'found' 428 ballots two days after the close of the polls.”

The complaint accuses Putnam County elections officials and members of the Putnam County Canvassing Board of misconduct.

It also accuses the canvassing board of violating Florida Sunshine Laws and its political code during the recount process.

The trial is set for April 12 and will be heard by a Clay County judge in Putnam County.

If the court finds Kinney's complaint valid, the judge could throw out the 428 ballots, which would give the race to Kinney; the judge could void the election and call on the governor to appoint an interim sheriff until the next general election in 2018; or the judge could order a new election. 

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