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District Attorney will not charge Grandy for violation of 100-foot polling boundary

Zach Vance • Jul 31, 2018 at 7:26 PM

1st Judicial District Attorney General Ken Baldwin announced Tuesday that he would not pursue charges against Washington County Republican nominee for mayor Joe Grandy for violating the 100-foot polling boundary during early voting at the Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough. 

“Glad to close the books on this and move forward and that the DA was able to clearly see this situation for what it truly was,” Grandy said in a statement about the charges being dropped. 

Last week, Washington County Commission candidate Kent Harris, a fervent supporter of Grandy’s primary opponent Mark Ferguson, shared a photo with the Johnson City Press and the Washington County Election Commission that showed Grandy talking to someone within the 100-foot boundary.

Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart said she receive the photo and the election commission voted to send it to Baldwin for further investigation. 

“The law involving the 100-foot line requires a candidate to do two things: You have to cross the 100-foot line, and that’s not in or of itself illegal. But once you cross that line, you have to be actively engaged in trying to get anyone that you might talk to to vote for you ... in other words you would have to talk to them about your candidacy or you would have to give them some flyers, a button or a hat,” Baldwin said. 

“It takes both of those things. Now all we have involving this picture with Mr. Grandy is there was some individual apparently he was talking to. ... So we talked to everybody involved. Nobody could identify this individual as far as that goes. So we were not able to talk to him. There was nothing about the photograph itself that indicated there was any politicking going on.” 

Baldwin said Grandy cooperated completely during the investigation and voluntarily came to his office for an interview. 

In addition to Grandy, Baldwin spoke to Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, who spoke to Grandy the same day he was photographed within the polling boundaries.

“(Grandy) indicated when we interviewed him that he had gone there that day to see Dan Eldridge about some resolutions that were on the County Commission meeting (agenda) that was held that Monday night,” Baldwin said. 

“So then we talked to Mr. Eldridge, and Mr. Eldridge confirmed that indeed Mr. Grandy did come to him that day and they talked about those resolutions. Dan Eldridge also indicated that Mr. Grandy and he do talk about things of that nature on a fairly regular basis. This was nothing new. He comes into the courthouse quite often. This was not an isolated incident.”

In April, a similar photo surfaced showing Grandy allegedly violating the 100-foot polling boundary, but Stewart said Grandy was only warned. She said Grandy was told he would need to enter the front entrance to the courthouse when going to conduct business and could not speak to anyone or loiter while on the courthouse premises. 

If the person identified in the photo eventually comes forward, Baldwin said his team of investigators would have to evaluate his credibility just like any other witness.

Last Tuesday, Grandy’s campaign issued a statement suggesting the Election Commission move early voting to another location. 

“This is nothing more than a transparent political cheap shot. No one is above the law, but having early voting at the courthouse makes it impossible to not cross the 100 foot boundary if you have official business to conduct inside the building,” according to the statement.

“I was not distributing campaign materials or soliciting votes as I approached the front entrance yesterday morning. Perhaps we need to look at alternative locations for early voting going forward so it won’t be such a problem for the 30 elected officials in this county to do the people’s work they were elected to do.”

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