‘Law’ responds to Sawyerville

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 2004

SAWYERVILLE – An election just isn’t an election in this small northwestern Hale County community without “the law” showing up.

At least that’s the way some

residents describe it.

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“It’s the same people every time that cause trouble,” one man, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said. “Every time the poll opens, it’s something and it’s the same people.”

The complaint alleged that someone was interfering with the voting process at the polling place.

“We need racial harmony in this county and it’s just a certain group of blacks that have gotten tensions high,” the man, who is also black, said. “It’s killing business here in Hale County.”

Hale County Sheriff Larry Johnson said that Probate Judge Leland Avery informed him that the sheriff’s department needed to respond to the Sawyerville precinct.

“It wasn’t a major problem and it must have been worked out because [Avery] called me back and said it was handled before I got there,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there was also a minor problem at the Gallion precinct with campaign workers handing out literature.

There, they were handing out material too close to road, causing a traffic tie up.

“We just adjusted their location to keep the traffic moving,” Johnson said.

But the Sawyerville precinct is a routine problem for the sheriff’s department, Johnson said.

“Every once and while we have to go to other precincts, but that’s out of the ordinary,” he said. “In the last several years, we’ve had to respond to the Sawyerville precinct for some reason.”

Avery said overall, the election was the “smoothest” he’s seen.

Sawyerville wasn’t the only voter complaint in the region, however.

A Perry County man complained about a possible violation of state law Tuesday at the Marion Perry Fitness and Nutrition Center polling place in Marion.

Alex Talley, who moved to Marion four years ago from Florida, said that workers handing out sample ballots were much closer to the polling place than the required 30 feet.

“Today we had people standing two feet away handing stuff out telling people who to vote for,” Talley said. “You had people sitting in chairs behind those orange cones under the eaves because it was raining. I got one of (the sample ballots) right in front of the front door.”

Talley said he was most disturbed by a lack of police presence at the polls, considering some of the polling irregularities occurring in other states.

“The thing that went on at Marion that burnt my shoes is that when we had the mayor election we even had auxiliary officers standing there,” Talley said. “We had police officers in the mayor’s race, there was a bunch of them up here then. (Today) We had no policemen on site.”

After voting, Talley said he drove back by the polling place twice more to see if the situation had improved, it had not.

“It’s a mess,” he said.

Talley said it appeared that orange cones had been set up to show the workers where they were allowed to hand out the leaflets.

However, the workers were inside the cones.

“They called one woman out by name as she was going into the doors,” he said. “She said she didn’t want one. They shouldn’t be right in front of the door handing out those things.”

Talley said he didn’t plan to give a formal complaint.

“It’s such a small town, you hate to stir things up,” he said.

John Gullion contributed to this story.