According to information which was released last Friday, all nine Justices on the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee County Circuit Court did not have the jurisdiction to decide the election contest case that evolved from the Cedar Bluff Municipal Election, on August 26th of last year.
After the results were certified in Cedar Bluff’s General Election on September 2nd, three candidates – two for Council positions and one for Mayor – filed a contest suit saying the absentee ballots were not handled properly and should not be counted. The suit was filed in Cherokee County Circuit Court.
The three judges in the court recused themselves because one of the defendants in the suit – attorney Evan Smith – often represented clients in the judges’ court.
Etowah Circuit Judge William Rhea was then appointed to hear the case, and did so in his courtroom in Gadsden. Rhea’s decision was to not count the disputed absentee ballots.
Justice Michael Bolin, in writing the court’s opinion, said that an election contest can not be brought until a candidate is declared elected, after a run-off election – additionally, he emphasized that an election contest can’t be brought in any court, unless allowed by state statute.
The decision handed down was a complex one, and somewhat confusing, however at this point it appears that a run-off election will be held for the District One Council Seat, with that race being between Evan Smith and Billie Burkhalter; there will apparently also be a run-off in the Mayor’s race.
According to information provided to WEIS Radio News, the run-off in the Mayor’s race will – due to a legal technicality – have to be between the two top vote-getters in the race Ethel Sprouse and Steve Lay, even though Steve Lay has since passed away.
The original date for the run-off was October 7th of 2008, however, since the contest was in court, the Mayor and Council Members have had to continue to serve, far beyond what was the expected November completion date of their terms in office.
Current Cedar Bluff Mayor Martha Baker, said she has yet to make a decision on whether to call a special meeting to set the run-off date, or instead to simply wait until the next regular Council meeting, which takes place the second Monday in June.