ABERDEEN • More than three months after the November general election, Brian Atkins picked up another five votes Monday in his bid to become the third district Monroe County supervisor.
Atkins is challenging the election that saw him lose a three-way race to Rubel West by just a handful of votes. The civil lawsuit began Monday afternoon in Monroe County Circuit Court. Senior status Circuit Court Judge Larry Roberts is expected to issue a ruling Tuesday.
Both sides agreed to forego a jury trial. Instead, Roberts will hear testimony and make a ruling. The judge could let the November results stand, allow some contested votes to be counted for an amended result or call for a new election.
Last November, Atkins lost by just 14 votes. Weeks later, he filed the suit where he contested more than three dozen ballots. He argues that election officials accepted 20 or more ballots that should have been excluded. Another 18 votes that should have been counted were not, according to the complaint.
In court Monday, Roberts allowed 10 rejected ballots to be opened and counted in open court. Atkins received five votes. West received two and the third candidate received one. Wayne Faulkner finished a distant third in the election and was released from the lawsuit.
Atkins, through attorney Spencer Ritchie, questioned whether five other absentee ballots that were denied should be counted. Ritchie called Hinds County Republican Party chairman Pete Perry as an expert to show that nine absentee ballots that were allowed to be counted should have been rejected for various reasons.
West’s attorney William Starks was in the middle of cross examining Perry when the judge decided to recess for the day.
Ritchie is expected to argue Tuesday that some affidavit ballots were improperly rejected and that 10 or more people voted in District 3, even though they no longer resided in the district. Atkins also argues that after he contested the election, election commissioners illegally opened the ballot box from the Hamilton precinct.
The plaintiff referred to the fact that some voters might have been turned away because voting machines did not work in the district. Roberts did not allow them to amend their challenge, but did allow them to proffer evidence.
When the votes were counted in November, West finished with 1,071 votes and Atkins had 1,051. Faulkner garnered 515 votes. If the judge does order a special election, it will only affect the six precincts of supervisor District 3.