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Jesse Houle Awarded Commission Seat by Default

Jesse Houle.

The late Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Jerry NeSmith’s votes are void, and so the other candidate, Jesse Houle, will take office in January, ACC Attorney Judd Drake said in a memo to the Board of Elections released this afternoon.

NeSmith died in a fall at his home June 6. Three days later, he posthumously defeated Houle with 57% of the vote.

In most places, the situation would call for a special election, according to Drake, but not in Georgia. Here, votes for a candidate who has died or withdrawn do not count, so Houle received the majority of votes.

“Agonizingly, this conclusion leads to a harsh result for those individuals who voted for Mr. NeSmith in the election for District 6 Commissioner,” Drake wrote.

In addition, partisan elections allow for a substitute nomination in the event a nominee dies, but nonpartisan elections like those for ACC Commission do not, according to Drake.

Drake acknowledged that NeSmith supporters are likely to challenge the result in court, but he believes such a challenge is unlikely to succeed.

Although—barring any court ruling to the contrary—Houle will take office in January, a special election will still be held on Nov. 3 to fill the last two months of NeSmith’s term.

The Board of Elections will meet June 18 to certify the election results.

Read the full memo here.

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