Making History: Firm Twice Persuades Judge to Toss Election
A political law attorney with Holland & Knight's Public Policy & Regulation Group persuaded a Georgia judge to overturn two elections held in the span of seven months for a hotly contested seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Overturning elections in Georgia is a difficult task, and Atlanta lawyer Jake Evans' feat makes him the first attorney in Georgia history to twice overturn an election in the same race for the same candidate.
The latest decision meant that the firm's client, Georgia Rep. Dan Gasaway of House District 28, had a third chance to keep his seat.
Public Policy lawyer Jake Evans, who advises municipalities and counties on many election law issues, represented Rep. Gasaway, who was battling for a fourth term as the district's state representative. Rep. Gasaway lost the Republican primary in May 2018 by 67 votes, then lost the Dec. 4, 2018, the do-over race, by two votes. To convince Superior Court Senior Judge David Sweat to toss the results, Mr. Evans needed to show more illegal, rejected or irregular votes than the election's margin of victory. He used sophisticated geo-mapping technology, extensive electoral data and documents, and witness testimony to succeed in overturning the first election.
For the case contesting the Dec. 4 election, in addition to using geo-mapping technology and presenting considerable voter data and records, Mr. Evans subpoenaed four voters and put them on the witness stand. They were individuals that moved out of the district hundreds of days before the election or that were allowed to vote twice. One witness claimed her residence was a property with nothing more than a mailbox, while another witness was told he had already voted, but was allowed to cast his ballot anyway.
Under Georgia law, Rep. Gasaway needed to prove two illegal, irregular or wrongly rejected votes to overturn the December election. After a four-day trial, Judge Sweat found four illegal and irregular votes and ruled in Rep. Gasaway's favor for a second time.
As part of his government services practice, Mr. Evans represents candidates investigating, prosecuting and defending against election contest actions. Mr. Evans also represents and advises municipalities and counties on many election law issues, including those under investigation before the Georgia Secretary of State's Office and the Georgia State Elections Board and before an investigation has been commenced to reduce the chances of one occurring.
Holland & Knight's Public Policy & Regulation Practice Group includes more than 100 lawyers and other professionals who work collaboratively to help achieve our clients' goals. They are engaged in federal, state and local government affairs, as well as regulatory counseling and related disciplines.