Lamesa Danzey almost beat incumbent Dothan City Commissioner Amos Newsome last August in a race for the District 2 seat, but was edged out by a scant 14 votes. It would have been a tough loss at best, but Danzey was suspicious enough about the disparity in absentee votes that she filed a challenge to the election.
She received 5 absentee votes in the race. Newsome received 119.
Late last week, the Houston County Sheriff’s Department arrested three local women, including one identified as Newsome’s longtime girlfriend, on charges of voter fraud. At question are 56 ballots the women are accused of falsifying – more than enough to change the final tally of the race if the women are convicted.
However, Sheriff Andy Hughes points out that the criminal aspect of this matter has no effect on the outcome of the race. That’s a shame.
If these defendants are found guilty of voter fraud, then the candidate for whom they worked is holding office fraudulently. In this case, he’s also collecting a salary for a job he wasn’t properly elected to hold. Newsome has not been charged in this matter, but a finding of guilt for his campaign workers certainly changes the legitimacy of his seat.
Danzey’s legal challenge was dropped some time back; although a criminal investigation was in progress, her attorney had not found sufficient proof to proceed. With last week’s arrests, she may decide to revive her challenge.
That shouldn’t be necessary. The city of Dothan bears the responsibility of conducting fair and legal elections for municipal office. Should any or all of these women be found guilty of tampering with a municipal election, the outcome should be vacated and the seat conferred to the rightful winner as determined by canvassing votes without those identified as fraudulent.