News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012
LINCOLN COUNTY, Ga. -- The State of Georgia is investigating voter fraud allegations in Lincoln County. A close sheriff's race is dividing the town and has a lot of folks fired up.
News 12 spoke to those making the claims, and the Board of Elections director is calling it a desperate move.
It's all the buzz in Lincoln County -- allegations of possible voter fraud. Last week, incumbent Sheriff Gerald Lawson lost the race by 28 votes to Democrat Bruce Beggs.
"I'm doing this to see if we have an issue in Lincoln County. I think it should be exposed if it is," said Lawson about potential voter fraud and corruption.
Now after multiple complaints, including one filed by Lawson himself, the secretary of state is investigating.
"The complaints were that I was voting dead people, letting felons vote and opening absentee ballots before Election Day," explained Lilvender Bolton, Lincoln County director of Board of Elections.
Bolton says she's been given no specific names to investigate.
"I need a name. If you're going to accuse me of something, the least you could do is give me a name," Bolton said.
Another point of contention is absentee ballots. This year, 164 more voters cast an absentee ballot than in 2008. A similar increase was seen all over the state now that anyone can request an absentee ballot.
"In our small county, we haven't had a growth in our county, we've had a loss," Lawson said.
"The rules have changed and anytime the rules change, you get more people voting absentee," Bolton said.
Lawson says he's fighting for the right to vote, not fighting for his job back.
"The word on the street is that this is something sour on my part because I lost the election, but it's not. The feeling is that this election was not a truly fair election, whether that's true or false, I don't know and time will tell," Lawson said.
"It's disheartening to know people can't accept when they lost, and in the election, there's always got to be a loser," Bolton said.
Sheriff Lawson says he has filed an open records request with the Board of Elections office for a list of voters' names to investigate himself, but he hasn't been provided one.
As for the Sheriff Elect Beggs, this week he's at sheriff's training in middle Georgia. He gave News 12 this statement: "I don't have any reason to believe any impropriety took place in regarding the recent election. I have every confidence in our election officials that they conducted the election according to law and I feel sure any investigation by the Secretary of State's Office will reveal that."
News 12 has been told this is not the first voter fraud investigation in Lincoln County. We've been in touch with the Secretary of State's Office to see if this case has any similarity to previous incidents.