ATLANTA – A pair of state investigations into alleged election-law violations in McIntosh County remains ongoing a week after the State Elections Board transferred them to the Attorney General’s Office.
Among those subject to the investigations are State Court Judge Jean Bolin and County Elections Supervisor Elenore “Doll” Gale and four private individuals.
The probe includes multiple allegations of irregularities, such as people in possession of ballots, voting for others against their wishes and campaigning too close to polling places.
The state board voted 4-0 Oct. 21 on two cases, one from elections in 2012 and 2014. Gale said Thursday that the number of ballots in question would not have changed the outcome of any race.
Bolin declined to comment Thursday. Her attorney, Doug Andrews of Savannah, said there was no intentional wrongdoing on her part during her 2014 election, which she won overwhelmingly.
“Judge Bolin candidly admitted that she had inadvertently failed to remove her elect-me sticker from her blouse and left magnetic signs on her vehicle when she approached her work place, the courthouse, on one occasion when advanced voting was going on. It embarrassed her because she tries to comply with all the rules,” he said.
Gale herself lodged the complaints that triggered the investigations.
In 2012, she reported to the state that two sheriff’s deputies separately saw different men in possession of multiple absentee ballots. State law only permits family members or caregivers to handle voted absentee ballots.
Inquiries by State Election Board investigator Ryan McNeal found enough evidence for the board to decide to send letters to seven people instructing them how to properly request and handle absentee ballots on behalf of the elderly, disabled or those out of town.
His investigation also found that Gale had improperly accepted absentee ballots in cases when the address did not match registration files.
Gale said that was because of a lag in updating records after the county switched from using postal route and box numbers to house numbers and street names.
“I said I accepted them because the signatures matched, and the records in the system matched,” she said.
McIntosh Election Board Chairman Robert Mucha downplayed the matter Thursday.
“It’s more of a procedural type of thing, really. Clerical,” he said by phone from a Florida vacation.
Others who were subject to that complaint will get letters of instruction but are no longer part of the investigation, including Alberta Wilson, Jackie Rowe, Dennolla Grovenor, Lenox Sullivan, Jessica Ryals, Elizabeth Ryals and Kathy Folts.
In 2014, Gale filed a complaint after a call from an elderly voter who alleged that a supporter of Bolin, Donna Caldwell, had volunteered to help mark her absentee ballot but then would not allow it to be seen when the older woman wanted to check it. Gale invalidated the ballot when the older woman voted in person, as the law allows.
However, investigator Glenn Archie’s checking also turned up four absentee ballots that weren’t counted and that did not have “rejected” written across the outer envelope, as required by law.
Gale said she had invalidated them because addresses didn’t match registration records.
The state board voted to send a letter of instruction to Gale in relation to that instance but to also ask the attorney general to pursue the others implicated, including Caldwell, Amy Young, Oneda Drawdy and George Gale who is a distant relative of Elenore Gale’s husband.
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