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Local man files complaint about solicitation of votes at nursing home
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    A local man has filed a complaint with Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel’s office, citing improper behavior regarding solicitation of votes at a local nursing home.
    Lawton Sack, Lakeview Road, sent a complaint to the Secretary of State’s office last Friday, citing what he considers improper behavior.
    In his official complaint, Sack said someone at Heritage Inn had his wife’s 83-year-old grandmother sign a document after waking her and asking her if she wanted to vote for president.
    Matthew Carrothers, public information officer for the Secretary of State’s office, provided the Statesboro Herald a copy of Sack’s complaint, which read:  “ ... During a recent visit to (the elderly victim), she explained to my wife and myself that she was awakened twice by two different people asking her if she wanted to vote for the President.  She told them no the first time, while letting them know that she wasn’t sure who was even running.
    “The second time she gave in and signed a piece of paper, not knowing what it was.  She was very confused.
    “This incident was reported to the nursing home staff by my wife’s mother. We have been told that the lawyer for the nursing home had taken over the situation and that the authorities had been contacted.  We have heard two different stories:  ...  that a nurse employed there was involved  (and) ... that it was a woman who was sitting with a patient and the sitter’s husband.”
    Heritage Inn administrator Pamela Hobbs would not comment on the issue, except to make the following official statement: “The (Heritage Inn Nursing) Center’s staff is committed to honoring resident’s rights —  including the right to vote — and actively provides assistance as needed and/or requested.  Additionally, in the interest of respecting the resident’s home environment, the center has a no solicitation guideline in effect. We are happy to cooperate with any agency looking into voting.”
    Hobbs said the statement also applied to questions the Statesboro Herald asked about a Statesboro Police incident report regarding a voting-related complaint filed by Valerie C. Luckey-Merritt Oct. 6.
    Merritt called police after a dispute at Heritage Inn where staff members would not allow her to have some nursing home residents sign what she said were voter registration forms.
     However, after Advanced Patrol Officer Eric Short met with Merritt and Heritage Inn staff members, nursing home officials said Merritt did not have permission to have residents “sign voting documents.”
    Merritt, who was served with criminal trespass by Heritage Inn, according to police reports, said last week she was only distributing voter registration forms.
    Merritt said she is a deputized registrar and was at the home registering her mother-in-law to vote.
     Shontay Jones, deputy registrar with the Bulloch County Voter Registrar’s office,  confirmed Monday Merritt is a deputized registrar.
    Merritt and about “50 or so other people” became deputized registrars this year, meaning they have the official right to conduct registration drives, Jones said.
    “They accused me of registering incompetent people,” Merritt said. “But I was registering elderly people who were informed. I had permission.”
    Merritt said the voter registrar’s office would reject any absentee ballot from a person who was determined to be incompetent.
    Jones said that was true. However, a voter would have to be officially deemed incompetent to be removed from the voter registration list. It is possible for people who are incompetent to vote, and “there is no way for us to determine” whether a voter has his or her full mental capacity, she said.
    Jones did confirm that no one from Heritage Inn received an absentee ballot, and there is no way someone other than a registered voter or that voter’s family member could obtain an absentee ballot, as the ballot must be requested in person and then mailed to the voter.
    Merritt said Friday what she was doing “wasn’t voter fraud nor an attempt to do anything wrong.”

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