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Sheriff Candidate Withdraws Case

- February 14, 2024

Maxwell had petitioned the court for a recount of votes cast in the November 7, 2023, election. He requested and was granted a nonsuit this week.

by Adele Uphaus

A Spotsylvania Circuit Court judge this week granted a motion for a nonsuit filed by Steve Maxwell, who in November lost his race for Spotsylvania County Sheriff against longtime incumbent Roger Harris.

Maxwell had petitioned the court for a recount of votes, and a panel of three Circuit Court judges was scheduled to hear the case on February 15, but the granting of the nonsuit now means that hearing has been cancelled.

In his complaint, Maxwell—who planned on acting as his own attorney—alleged that “It is believed that Roger L. Harris is not eligible to be Sheriff of Spotsylvania County as it appears the votes may have been manipulated to produce a different result than the actual vote. It is believed that Steve D. Maxwell was the candidate chosen by the voters of Spotsylvania County, not Roger L. Harris.”

Maxwell’s complaint states that the outcome of the November 7, 2023, general election—in which he received 14,140 votes to Harris’s 29,051, according to official results from the Virginia Department of Elections—shows “the opposite results of the exit polling conducted during early voting.”

It states that Maxwell “spoke with an actuary and explaining the numbers and percentages he accumulated during the early voting (he) was told that the probability of turning the vote in the opponent’s favor would be mathematically impossible.”

The complaint also states that the fact that Maxwell’s name came first on the ballot before Harris’s should have given him “a significant advantage” and that since he was the endorsed candidate by the county Republican committee, and since Spotsylvania “has a voting percentage of 58% for Republican voting as to 40% for Democrat and 2% for Independent,” he should have received more of the vote.

William Tunner, the attorney for Harris, said that he filed a motion to dismiss Maxwell’s complaint “citing technical grounds that in my opinion would have prevailed.”  

“Under election law statute, you can have a recount if the difference between the two candidates is 1%,” Tunner said. “Here, the difference was 2/3 to 1/3.”

Tunner said the nonsuit is essentially a voluntary dismissal of the case without prejudice, meaning that Maxwell could bring the case forward again.

“Generally, you can bring a case back within six months of the date of the lawsuit or as long as it’s still within the underlying statute of limitations,” he said. “This case being a request for recount under the election law statutes, it would be unusual to see it refiled because of the timing elements, but I honestly do not know what Mr. Maxwell intends to do.”

It has cost Harris personally at least $11,000 in legal fees to respond to Maxwell’s complaint, Troy Skebo, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, told the Advance on Wednesday.

“It’s an on-going running total,” he said.

This article has been updated to state that Harris is paying the legal fees.

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