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Morris' victory facing challenge
Complaint filed against winner of Caroline County School Board write-in election


Date published: 11/5/2010

BY PORTSIA SMITH

A formal complaint has been filed challenging Luther Morris' victory in the write-in campaign for a Caroline County School Board seat.

The former county supervisor and court clerk won the Reedy Church District seat with 384 write-in votes Tuesday. But other candidates say his position as secretary of the county's Electoral Board made him ineligible to campaign.

"I believe Luther Morris broke the law and the rules for running as a candidate for the School Board," candidate Jamey Lewchanin wrote in a complaint to Commonwealth's Attorney Tony Spencer yesterday. "He was at the [polling place] shaking hands on the outside of the building and going inside the building saying hello to people inside the building as they walked by him."

Lewchanin wrote that he also was concerned that Morris' name was the only one written on blue sample ballots being handed out by members of the Democratic Party.

Morris said he had heard that people in his community wanted him to run and were going to write him in, but he did not actively campaign. He said he doesn't think he did anything wrong.

Registrar Danette Moen said she heard complaints on Election Day that Morris was campaigning. But when she asked, Morris told her he was not, Moen said.

"We've never been in a situation like this, but we're trying to do things the right way," she said.

Moen said she advised those with complaints to send whatever evidence they have to Spencer.

According to the code of Virginia, Spencer can ask the state Attorney General to form a committee to immediately investigate whether there was an election violation that could have altered the outcome of a race. Spencer sent that request to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli yesterday afternoon.

State code says Cuccinelli must create a group of two or more people who are qualified to investigate, and that group must give a report within five days of being appointed. If the report finds that a violation occurred, Cuccinelli may authorize prosecution.

Slightly more than 1,000 voters filled out a ballot for the special election to fill the seat left vacant when Fred Peatross resigned the seat in November for health reasons.

Candidate Reggie Underwood trailed Morris with 251 votes, followed by Lewchanin with 232.

Incumbent Valerie Fells, who was appointed to temporarily replace Peatross, finished with 148. She did not file by the deadline to have her name placed on the ballot.

Morris was the county's Circuit Court clerk from 1983 to 1991, and he served on the Board of Supervisors for 16 years until 1999. Morris will have to resign from the Electoral Board position to serve on the School Board.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419
Email: psmith@fredericksburg.com