Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

August 29, 2006

Sells believes 52 improper votes cast in election

David Patterson was busy conferring with lawyers and greeting friends and colleagues at a hearing Tuesday morning while Judge Lillie Ann Sells, Patterson's opponent in the contested Aug. 3 election, was absent from the hearing to decide if Patterson would take the oath of office today.

Judge Ben H. Cantrell, of Nashville, denied the request for a temporary restraining order to keep Patterson from being sworn in as criminal court judge for the 13th District.

Sells is contesting the results of the Aug. 3 election, which found Patterson the winner by a margin of 10 votes. The votes from the seven counties were scheduled to be certified by the state Wednesday.

Stephen J. Zralek, Sells' attorney, argued there were at least 52 contested votes in the election, five times the margin of victory. By the state certifying the vote and Patterson taking the oath of office, he would then be qualified to take office, an action that would irreparably harm his client, Zralek said.

"[M]ore illegal votes than the margin of victory — that's what we have here by five or six times, and I'm afraid we'll find even more," Zralek said.

Zralek said allowing Patterson to take the oath would harm Sells by

•making it difficult for her to find witnesses for her suit.

•making it difficult for her to assume office should the court declare her the winner of the election because the electorate would not see her as the office holder.

•making it difficult for her to campaign should the court declare the Aug. 3 election invalid.

Janet Kleinfelter, with the state Attorney General's office and representing the election commissions named in the suit, argued the court could not grant an injunction, pointing to an 1871 law that said the governor shall appoint a temporary judge in the event of a contested election.

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