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District 5 saga continues

The question of who will represent District 5 on Manning's City Council remains up in the air. But that question could be answered by the end of the month, or perhaps sooner. When Julius Dukes Jr. was confirmed the winner by a single vote in the runoff against Gloria Frierson, she filed an appeal of the Manning Election Commission's decision to uphold the results that showed her getting edged out 48-47. Dukes was not sworn into office for the seat formerly held by the late Gregory Witherspoon while the appeal is pending. At a hearing this morning before Third Circuit Court Judge W. Jeffrey Young in the Court of Common Pleas, Shaun Kent argued on behalf on Dukes while David Weeks presented the case for Frierson. Two people that aren't residents in District 5 had their votes counted, Weeks said, which impacted the final tally. "You're talking about two votes and a one vote margin of victory," he said. "We don't have to show how they voted but that they merely participated in the process." Reading from a transcript of a prior hearing, Weeks zeroed in on the testimony of Shirley Black-Oliver, the elections director, who said the votes were cast in the office. Young asked if that was early voting by absentee ballot, and Weeks said it was. The only remedy, Weeks said, was to order a new election. Kent offered a different take on Black-Oliver's testimony and the transcript thereof, which he said showed the elections director further noting that she couldn't attest as to whether those votes were challenged or canceled, simply that they were indeed cast.

"We don't know if the votes count," Kent said. Kent also said Frierson could've presented a challenge on the day of the runoff but chose not to, thereby waiving her right to challenge. Young pointed to the record, which showed the votes were counted while Kent kept going back to Black-Oliver's testimony, stressing his argument that it only meant ballots were requested. "This document seems to assume they actually voted," Young said in examining the ballot delivery record. Weeks once again pointed to the record showing the ballots in question were cast in the office. "They can't get around that," he said. Young asked if there's any record showing the ballots were "kicked out." Kent said he didn't know if the votes were counted or not. Young said each side would have 10 days to file additional briefs and then he would make a ruling.  


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