Unicoi Vice-Mayor Doug Hopson

Former Unicoi Vice-Mayor Doug Hopson was indicted this week on voter fraud charges related to his residency.

UNICOI — The former vice mayor of the Town of Unicoi was arrested Thursday after being indicted on voter fraud charges.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley confirmed that he served the indictment on Doug Hopson after Hopson turned himself in at the Unicoi County Jail.

“It was investigated by the district attorney’s office and they took their findings to a grand jury,” Hensley confirmed late Thursday.

“I served the indictment this morning,” Hensley said.

Hopson was released on a $5,000 bond.

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said Thursday night that Hopson had been indicted on three counts of felony voter fraud.

The allegations of voter fraud came up in September as the November election cycle was approaching. Ultimately, Hopson did not seek re-election to the Unicoi Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2020.

It was apparently the third consecutive 4-year election cycle that Hopson’s residency came under scrutiny.

This time, the DA’s office became involved and investigated the allegations.

In a Sept. 1 meeting of the Unicoi County Election Commission, Chairman Thomas Reeves addressed a resident’s complaint that Hopson did not live at the Unicoi address listed on his request for qualifying papers for the Nov. 3 election, but instead lived at a Temple Hill Road address south of Erwin.

The commission received similar complaints against Hopson before his 2012 and 2016 elections while Hopson was living at a home on Quail Run in Erwin rather than the Hopson Lane address he has consistently listed with the election office.

In 2012, the Election Commission voted to allow Hopson to remain on the ballot, citing state election laws that give weight to an elected official’s “intent” and Hopson’s statement that he was attempting to sell his Quail Run home and move to Unicoi.

In 2016 the commission allowed Hopson, who was still living at and attempting to sell his Quail Run home at that time, to continue his run for office due to the lack of a motion to remove him from the ballot.

Hopson said in a September interview that he sold his Quail Run home after the 2016 election and moved to a home on Unicoi Drive, where he lived until the fall of 2019, when he moved to Temple Hill to help care for a family member during her illness.

When his family member died in March, Hopson said his own long-running illness became worse and he was unable to move back to Unicoi.

He said in September he was not seeking re-election because of his health and hoped to “just make it through next couple of months” and then buy or build a home in Unicoi.

He said that his intent was always to move back to Unicoi, and that he had cooperated fully with the investigation.

District Attorney General Ken Baldwin recused his office from the case, and the Sullivan County DA’s office was appointed to handle the matter.