Commissioners ease concerns about election integrity
County Republican Party questions Administrator’s role, restrictions
By Logan Watson
Sam Gregory, Chairman of the Gibson County Election Commission, spoke to members of the Gibson County Republican Party on Tuesday night, reassuring voters that upcoming elections in Gibson County would be secure and free of interference after questions were raised about what they felt was a possible conflict of interest on the part of Gibson County Administrator of Elections Emily Brown.
Upwards of 50 party members gathered in the back room of the Majestic Steak House in Trenton with the intent of drafting a letter to the Election Commission outlining their concerns after the group learned that Matthew Brown, Emily Brown’s husband, intended to run for the office of Gibson County Property Assessor in the August 2024 election.
“The intent of this letter is not to question the integrity of the administrator or the efficiency with which she performs her job,” the letter read. “Our goal is to reassure the citizens of Gibson County and the Republican candidate that our elections are fair and unbiased.”
The letter went on to state that, without publicizing the Election Commission’s guidelines, policies and procedures regarding the Election Administrator’s role in the election process and her involvement in her husband’s campaign, the county could face scrutiny from state officials or other parties.
A memo from the Gibson County Republican Party’s Board of Directors to party members emphasized that the request was not made with malice toward either of the Browns, but rather to help educate the voting populace.
“With all the controversy over past national elections, the Board feels that the general public is unaware of all the safeguards that are in place here in Gibson County,” it read.
The party voted in favor of sending the letter to the Election Commission, but Gregory, along with fellow Election Commissioners Kim Todd, Kaleb Dinwiddie, Joe Albright and Tim Luckey, attended the meeting in order to provide immediate answers to the group’s questions.
“I appreciate your letter tonight, I really do,” Gregory said. “You’ve worked really hard about not calling into question the integrity of the Election Commission, but that’s all the letter does.”
Gregory, who has served on the Election Commission for 14 years, explained that the Election Administrator has no part in the counting of ballots and walked those in attendance through the processes for distributing, collecting and securing absentee ballots.
“Once that ballot comes back into the election office, it goes into a sealed box,” Gregory said. “It has a lock on each end of it. The Republicans have a lock and the Democrats have a lock. Nobody can get into that box unless both parties are present. It’s not not looked at, it’s not opened, it’s not touched until election night. It’s the same thing with the early voting process. The administrator, the deputies, nobody has access to any of those votes. The only people that do the counting of the actual votes and the actual ballots are [the Election Commissioners]. We count every single vote ourselves.”
Gregory stated that neither the Election Commissioners nor the Election Commission Office staff can sign a candidate’s petitions, endorse or campaign for anyone.
“We’re held to an extremely high standard as far as the integrity thing,” he said. “We do everything that we possibly can. By calling in because this single individual wants to run for office…in 14 years, I haven’t seen the Republican Party or the Democrat Party come to the election commission and question the processes and procedures.”
According to Chairman Gregory, Brown voluntarily requested that the Election Commission allow Deputy Administrator Gina Woods handle all absentee or mail-in ballots through the end of the August 2024 election. Brown will continue to perform the other facets of her job.
“The administrator’s job is to facilitate the election process,” Gregory continued. “To make sure that every one of our precincts are taken care of, that the staff at the precincts know what they need to do.”
Gregory noted that new voter registrations are verified by the commissioners and absentee voters are removed from the rolls once they request ballots. He also said that a new state law also requires a “paper trail” of every ballot cast, an added level of security for the election process.
“Everything you just said is exactly why we needed to send this,” said Bradley Owens. “Everything you just said makes everyone feel so much better about it. A spouse has never really run in a contested election. No one knows how people count the votes. I would submit to you that there would be thousands and thousands of voters in Gibson County that, without the clarification that you just gave, would not know that she didn’t count the votes.”
“That was the intent of this Board was to put the fire out before it started,” added Bob Moore.
“From a Commission standpoint, if Washington D.C. worked as well as our commission does, we’d have a federal government we could be proud of,” Gregory said. “We work very hard to make sure that the election process is done and done right.”
As an aside, Gregory informed the group that the Gibson County Special School District Board’s recent election cost the district over $10,000, even though both candidates ran unopposed and received a total of 39 votes.
“That’s a whole lot of money that the faculty and staff of the Gibson County school system could be using. That’s a waste of taxpayer money. We’ve asked time and time again.”
Gregory asked those in attendance to contact their GCSSD Board of Trustees representative and urge them to change the elections to coincide with state and federal general elections.
Editor’s Note: Sources told Gibson County Publishing that as of last Tuesday night, Brown had not yet officially announced his intention to seek the Property Assessor’s office. The documents provided to Gibson County Publishing from both the Gibson County Republican Party and the Gibson County Election Commission are included in the interest of accuracy and fairness.