Election challenge should tell us what went wrong

October 30, 2013 

One of the items Americans hold most dear -- at least in theory -- is the right to vote. Along with that should come the assurance that the ballot is correct and that the vote, once cast, is tabulated properly.

Now comes candidate Henry Ficklin who lost to Larry Schlesinger by a mere 26 votes in the District 2 runoff election to ask the Superior Court for what he, the petitioner, believes was an improper vote. He charges in his suit filed against Jeanetta Watson, in her official capacity as Bibb County supervisor of elections; Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections and Larry Schlesinger, that his name was not included on absentee ballots sent out prior to the Oct. 15 runoff election and that his name was “omitted” from ballots cast electronically during early voting and on the day of the election.

Ficklin is asking a Superior Court judge to call for a hearing to gather evidence and that the official results declared “null and void” and that Schlesinger be enjoined from taking office until the court’s ruling. Before we shake our heads and say, “There goes Ficklin again. He’s just a sore loser,” we might want to review what happened before the Sept. 17 General Election.

There was a mix-up, a snafu, a programming error -- it’s not really been explained -- that presented some voters with candidates that could not represent them. It was discovered that some voters who lived in District 3 were presented ballots with District 2 candidates and vice versa. Other irregularities were discovered in Districts 4 and 6. Those voters given the wrong ballots were just out of luck. Those votes counted even though the people they voted for could not represent them. First the board said 17 people had voted for candidates in the wrong district out of 800 who were mapped improperly. That number then expanded to 36 and went up to 90 spread across the county.

At the time, Vice Chairman of the Board of Elections Steve Allen, told Georgia Public Broadcasting, “Unless one of the elections is decided by, you know, 15 votes or so, this should not be a factor ... candidates might challenge the results of the election after Tuesday, and they have every right to do so.” While he was talking about the General Election, the same applies for the runoff.

The board’s failure to stop the early voting once the issues were presented opened the door for such a court challenge. Now, in a court of law, voters may find out what the real problem was and the methodology of the fix.

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