Athens officials say votes for candidate who died days before election are void

ATHENS — Jerry NeSmith was the District 6 Commissioner in Athens and was running for reelection. He died just three days before the June 9 election. In that election, with his name still on the ballot, NeSmith was elected to a third term.

Any time a candidate dies while running, election laws can be murky. Sometimes the position is filled by appointment, sometimes by special election, and sometimes by the next highest vote-getter. In local elections, such as city and county commission posts, legal precedent is difficult to find.

The Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections, looking at Georgia law and legal precedent, decided that while a special election does not need to be held to elect a new commissioner. It has instead declared all votes for NeSmith void and awarded the election to NeSmith’s opponent, Jesse Houle, will serve as the elected District 6 Commissioner.

However, since NeSmith’s term doesn’t expire until January, local law mandates that a special election will be held to fill the remainder of NeSmith’s current term.

The candidate who is elected to serve the remainder of Smith’s term will hold office until January when Houle will begin his term in office.

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