Sheriff: Election Office dumpster contained no ballots

Spalding County Crime Scene Investigator Jennifer Michel, right, and Lt. Nick Bruce on Thursday night collect the contents of a dumpster in the Spalding County Elections and Voter Registration Office parking lot. Photo credit Sheila Mathews/The GRIP

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Spalding County Sheriff Darrell Dix has confirmed what The GRIP report Thursday night – that no ballots were found among the documents and other paperwork located in a dumpster in the Spalding County Elections and Voter Registration parking lot.

The Sheriff’s Office on Friday issued a press release in response to what it referred to as “a great deal of bad information, misinformation, rumor, and gossip” regarding Thursday’s events.

An SCSO supervisor first responded to the Elections and Voter Registration Office regarding a complaint alleging observers were being denied access to the office. The supervisor document that complaint in an incident report.

The complainants were further instructed to contact the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office and told the incident report would be made available to them.

The supervisor reported everyone with whom he spoke was very peaceful and understanding, Dix said.

A short time later, the SCSO supervisor and Griffin Police Department officer returned at the request of Election Office staff to escort employees to their vehicles.

According to Dix, the was no incident and all was peaceful.

Deputies responded later to a third call reported election paperwork that had been found in a dumpster in the parking lot.

The same supervisor responded to the scene and contacted Dix, telling the Sheriff that paperwork was in the dumpster as had been reported.

“At that point I told him to clear the people from around the area of the dumpster, block off the area with crime scene tape, notify our on-call investigator and crime scene investigator and have them respond to the scene. When they arrived, on my orders, they photographed and documented the

dumpster, its contents, and the area around it,” Dix stated. “They then bagged the entire contents of the dumpster, loaded it into a truck, and transported the contents to the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office where it was secured under lock and key. We allowed anyone on scene that wanted to follow the truck transporting the materials to the Sheriff’s Office to do so, and some did.”

Dix also instructed deputies to go to all 18 Spalding County polling locations and check dumpsters and trash receptacles for any election related documents.

No such documents of elections materials were found at any of the 18 polling locations, Dix said.

Local and state investigators on Friday morning thoroughly examined in full the contents removed from the dumpster.

“This morning at approximately 9:00 a.m., an investigator from the Secretary of State’s Office arrived at the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, and along with my crime scene investigators and criminal investigators. While I was standing with them, they went through each bag, documenting and photographing what was found,” Dix stated. “The contents of those bags will be secured at the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office until further orders from the Secretary of State’s Office.”

Dix addressed the method used to secure, remove and store the records as well as the contents themselves.

People present in the parking lot were asked to step away from the dumpster and immediately complied, Dix said. Deputies then placed crime scene tape around the area to secure the dumpster until its contents could be removed by a crime scene investigator. Multiple deputies remained on scene while this process was taking place.

Dix said no one at the Election Office Thursday night found ballots in the dumpster, and no ballots were located in the dumpster’s contents when examined by Secretary of State of SCSO investigators

“What was found were empty envelopes that were used to mail ballots to the Election’s Office,” Dix said. “Those envelopes are marked ‘Ballot.’ Each had been opened and they were all empty.”
Furthermore, Dix confirmed the dumpster’s contents did include documents – not ballots – that for security reasons were “improperly disposed of.”

Dix reiterated that at no time was there “an angry mob” as some have described on social media.

No arrests were made, and the investigation has been turned over to the Secretary of State’s Office, Dix said.

“These are facts, not rumors allegations, misinformation, or gossip. Since last night I have been contacted by local and State officials regarding this incident as well as local and state level community groups,” Dix said. “I have kept them abreast of any updates regarding this incident and the allegations surrounding it. I will continue to do so if further incidents occur.”

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