Election dispute nears finale

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 12, 2005

A pretrial hearing in the 2004 Greensboro mayors race challenge was originally scheduled for Dec. 16, however, Wednesday, representatives of current Mayor Johnny B. Washington and challenger Vanessa Hill met in Montgomery and learned the trial would begin Wednesday Dec. 14.

Hill’s attorney, Walter Braswell and Washington’s attorney, William Pompey, met with Judge James Anderson to go over “logistics” rules for next weeks hearing and make presentation of documents go as smoothly as possible.

As part of the hearing, Braswell said, an expert witness was used to evaluate documents to save time in the courtroom. Braswell said the findings were consistent with those of a past trial.

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“We brought in our expert witness, Dr. Richard Roper, who is a document examiner and hand writing expert to review some of the ballots, affidavits and applications,” Braswell said. “He is the same guy who was involved in the original prosecution of Aaron Evans and recognized a lot of the names.”

Ballots in question, Braswell said, had issues that were easily recognized by their expert witness.

“There were several obvious problems and poorly disguised examples,” Braswell said. “It was really one right after the other with things like different handwriting in signatures and print and misspelled names.”

Neither Washington nor Pompey could not be reached for comment.

Braswell requested the pretrial hearing in August to go through the ballots in question, rather than waste time in court pouring over thousands of documents. For each questioned ballot, the affidavit, application and signature must all be examined.

During their August meetings the first phase of Hill’s challenge was completed when both sides concluded their examinations of the ballots.

Now, Braswell said, the questionable ballots are ready for trial.

“Basically, we will raise questions about votes and they will have the opportunity to have those voters take the stand and prove it was their signature,” Braswell said. “They will have the opportunity to do the same.”

Documents in question for the ballots include: Ballot Accounting Certificate, which are documents that inspectors must complete and sign; Voter Lists, which give a list of every qualified voter in each district; Absentee Voter Lists, which rundown everyone who applied for absentee ballots prior to the election; “Late” Absentee Ballots, which are absentee ballots that arrived in the mail after the established deadline and “Spoiled” Ballots, which are ballots that are thrown out because they were not properly cast.

When the evidence is heard next week, a final decision could still be in the works. Braswell said Anderson will take the to Shashy and put them in order for recommendation. Shashy will have final say.