6-21-00 Committee throws out ballots, rules in favor of Britton

Two weeks worth of nail biting ended Tuesday morning as sighs of relief mingled with shocked shaking of heads once the Executive Committee of the Franklin County Democratic party announced their verdict in the contested race for county school superintendent.

Belgreen Principal Eddie Britton replaced Red Bay Principal Bobby Forsythe in the run off with top vote getter Bill Moss after the committee ruled every absentee ballot lacking a post mark to be ineligible.

Britton challenged the results of the June 6 Democratic

Primary after finishing in third place with 2,071 votes. Forsythe edged Britton by six votes on the strength of absentee ballots, finishing with 2,077. Moss won the top spot with 2,196.

Forty-five minutes before the June 8 deadline to contest the already certified election, Britton challenged the validity of the absentee ballots, claiming that “miscalculation” in counting ballots, “bribery, intimidation and other misconduct” produced “a sufficient number of illegal votes” to affect the election.

The meeting began shortly before 9 p.m. Monday night in the county courthouse in Russellville and continued past midnight. Each side had an hour to argue its’ case before the committee.

“Eddie and his lawyer presented their case and then my lawyers presented what I thought was an excellent rebuttal,” Forsythe said yesterday morning. “The committee then went into closed session and decided to throw out all of the absentee ballots that did not have a post mark.

“I asked the sub-committee if they could guarantee that no good ballots were thrown out along with questionable ones. They said they could not and I don’t understand how they decided what they did but I guess we will live with it.”

Forsythe said he had no plans to contest the decision nor will he endorse Britton or Moss. He later released an official statement thanking his supporters and disavowing any challenge.

“To my supporters and voters of this area, I wish to say ‘thank you.’ I realize just a mere thank you is inadequate to fully express the appreciation my family and I feel toward each of you for the hard work and friendship you have shown during my campaign . . . I wish the results of the hearing with the Franklin County Democratic Executive Committee had been different and I could still be your candidate for the office of Superintendent of Education. However, that is not how it turned out and after searching my heart, I feel we must accept that it is the Lord’s will and not question the outcome. I say ‘thank you’ for the opportunity of meeting and talking with each of you during the past three months of campaigning.”

Probate Judge Hal Kirby said yesterday that the June 27 run off would go ahead as scheduled but the Moss/Forsythe ballots would not be counted. A special election must now be held to determine the victor between Moss and Britton.

Executive Committee chairman Danny McDowell was in court outside the county yesterday and could not be reached for comment before press time. Britton could not be reached despite numerous attempts to contact him by phone.

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