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Judge throws out liquor by the drink vote, orders new election

7:14 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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For the fourth time in four years, Pigeon Forge residents will head to the polls to take up the issue of liquor by the drink.

Sevier County Chancery Court Judge, Telford Fogerty, ruled Thursday to throw out the November referendum results and order a new election.

The ruling is a result of a lawsuit filed by anti-liquor group, Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge (CCCPF). They brought to the attention of the court that 289 more people voted than there are residents registered to vote.

They sued the Sevier County Election Commission. After reading 17 depositions showing poll workers' confusion and errors, the commission voted to ask their attorney recommend the election be thrown out.

They voted unanimously in an emergency meeting Wednesday that the results were "incurably uncertain."

"The people working the polls on election day dropped the candy. There's no question about that. They didn't do the job they were hired to do and trained to do," said the Sevier County Election Commission's attorney, Dennis Francis.

During the trial, both sides told the judge the only remedy was to hold a new election.

"The best way to disenfranchise voters would be to uphold admittedly flawed election," said CCCPF's attorney, Lewis Howard.

But there were not only two sides to the case. Pro- liquor group, Forging Ahead, was allowed to intervene last week.

They wanted the election to be upheld by taking out the admitted 289 illegal votes and applying the apportion rule to the remaining 2000 votes.

"88% of those votes were valid," said Forging Ahead's attorney, Greg Isaacs.

The judge said it was "clear" and "without question" that he had to order a new election.

"It's not what we wanted. But all along, Forging Ahead has said we'll live by the decision of the court. So we'll certainly honor that," said Forging Ahead representative Ken Maples.

"I feel like this was a partial victory for the Sevier Countians," said CCCPF member Charles Rhodes.

Once the order for a new election is filed, Judge Fogerty ruled a new election must take place sometime within the next 45 to 60 days.

Rhodes is upset that the election is coming so soon. He's concerned the Election Commission will not have time to correct the errors in the November election.

Both CCCPF and Forging Ahead say with a new election right around the corner, they will once again, roll up their sleeves and start the campaign process.

Right now, four restaurants in Pigeon Forge are serving liquor. The judge didn't say whether they can continue to serve. The election commission says that decision is up to the state run Alcohol Beverage Commission.

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