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Officials say Pigeon Forge liquor vote was flawed

1:07 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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Update 12:00 pm.  The judge has ordered a new election to determine if liquor by the drink can be sold in Pigeon Forge.

He said there's no question that 289 people who shouldn't have voted on the measure did, and that far exceeds the margin of victory in the liquor by the drink vote. 

He said there's "No question the vote is incurably uncertain."

He did not find any evidence of fraud.

We have a crew in the courtroom, and will bring you further information when we get it.

Previous story

The Sevier County Election Commission has admitted that the election to allow liquor sales in Pigeon Forge was flawed.

"We can't tell how the people voted, for or against it, with any certainty. And there's no remedy available for it," said Election Commission Attorney, Dennis Francis.

The referendum to sell liquor by the drink passed by 100 votes in November. Shortly after, a group called Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge (CCCPG) filed a lawsuit to contest the liquor vote.  They claimed a ballot mix-up meant 300 people were allowed to vote on the measure, even though they didn't live in Pigeon Forge.

The group wants a new vote.

At a meeting of the commission on Wednesday afternoon, the group voted unanimously to instruct their attorney, Dennis Francis, to tell the court that the results of the election are "incurably uncertain," and cannot support the validity of the election referendum. 

"Poll workers at the Pigeon Forge voting center, either through inadvertence or neglect or misinformation, up until about 1:30 on that afternoon of the election, pretty much allowed everybody who came through the door to vote," Francis said.

After reviewing the 17 depositions in the case, showing confusion at the polls, the election commission decided to recommend the judge that the election was not valid.

The trial to hear the lawsuit beings Friday morning.

Forging Ahead, a pro-liquor group, joined in the lawsuit last week to represent the residents who voted for the referendum.  They said they were disappointed with the recommendation.

"The election commission disenfranchised the 1,232 voters who supported this. We should have let the court decide," said Ken Maples, a representative of Forging Ahead.

CCCPG believes the recommendation is a step in the right direction.

"They validated what we've been saying all along," said Charles Rhodes of CCCPG.

Francis says that now that the election has been certified, it is up to a judge to order a new vote.

Liquor is already being sold in several Pigeon Forge restaurants.  It's not known yet how this could affect those sales. 

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