All parties in Macon City Councilman Henry Ficklins lawsuit about the outcome of his Oct. 15 runoff election dueled by news release Thursday and Friday, but an apparent point of agreement is that Ficklins claim of voting district errors has some merit.
Ficklin lost the second round of balloting for the District 2 commission seat on the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government to Larry Schlesinger by just 26 votes out of 3,393 cast.
Following a recount that didnt change the results, Ficklin filed suit Oct. 28 in Bibb County Superior Court against Schlesinger and the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections. He argued that his name was left off of some absentee and in-person electronic ballots, and asked a judge to bar Schlesinger from taking office until the matter is resolved. Ficklin wants a new election to be held.
An evidentiary hearing before Senior Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell is set for Nov. 26.
Ficklin and his attorney, Wayne Kendall, of East Point, began the latest exchange Thursday evening.
We have now substantially completed our investigation which conclusively reveals that at least 50 and possibly as many as 53 voters who reside in the Overlook Gardens apartments were not able to vote in the October 15, 2013, Special Election Runoff, Ficklin wrote. That conclusion came from calling voters in Overlook Gardens and analyzing election records, according to the news release.
Ficklin argues that buildings 1 through 8 of Overlook Gardens are in District 2, while buildings 9 through 12 were assigned to District 3. Overlook Gardens Apartments are at 1400 Gray Highway, across that road from Wal-Mart.
Due to a coding and assignment of voters error all residents of the Overlook Garden apartments were coded into District 3 for the October 15, 2013 Special Election Runoff, he wrote. Therefore, when these voters voted there was no District 2 race appearing on the electronic voting machines that they voted on, nor if they voted early, or by absentee mail-in ballot, did they receive a ballot with the District 2 race contained on the ballot.
Since the margin of victory between me and candidate Schlesinger was only 26 votes, had these 53 voters, that we have identified, been given the correct ballot, the outcome of the election could have been differently decided.
Schlesinger sent out a news release in response about 1 p.m. Friday, saying that decisions about the election should be made in court, and that all those who voted in the Sept. 17 and Oct. 15 elections should have their votes protected.
What Mr. Ficklin left out of his press release today was his teams efforts over the past week to get a Consent Agreement signed by all parties -- Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections and myself, primarily, bypassing the normal legal process, Schlesinger wrote. Unsavory legal and financial threats were made against those, namely myself, who were against any backroom deal represented by a Consent Agreement.
The consent agreement was an agreement to call for a new election, Kendall said Friday evening. The board of elections investigation agreed the election was flawed, which legally requires a new round of voting to be held, he said.
Its typical that lawyers who feel that theres no dispute about the law or the facts in a case will settle the case, Kendall said.
Schlesingers response doesnt refute that, he said.
Hes not citing any evidence; its all rhetoric, Kendall said.
And if mis-assignment of voters between districts 2 and 3 should provoke re-running one of those elections, Schlesinger said, he wonders why there is not also a move to redo the District 3 race. In District 3, Councilwoman Elaine Lucas -- a frequent Ficklin ally -- defeated former Bibb County school board member Terry Tripp.
I feel very confident that if the court orders yet another election between Mr. Ficklin and myself that we will once again be victorious, Schlesinger wrote.
About an hour after Schlesingers news release, William Noland, attorney for the board of elections, sent out a statement.
Numerous voters from District 2 do appear to have been erroneously given District 3 ballots, Noland wrote. That was because, as Ficklin said, the district line ran through the middle of an apartment complex. Because the apartment buildings all had the same street number, they were all given ballots for the same district -- District 3. Many of them should have been allowed to vote in the Ficklin-Schlesinger race, Noland said.
The Board of Elections was not aware that the legislation draws a district line through the middle of an apartment complex and, therefore, was unable to take the necessary steps to properly assign these voters to the appropriate districts, he said. The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections recognizes and acknowledges that an error occurred, and all necessary steps are being taken to rectify the problem and to move forward.
Election officials will make all their information available to the court and the candidates, Noland said.
The Board has no agenda other than to make the truth known and for the fair and correct result to be reached, he said.
Separately on Friday, a federal judge in Macon was told about Ficklins Superior Court fight, which could influence another election-related case.
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner-elect Mallory Jones filed the initial federal court case that set the election dates. That case was supposed to have closed out by Friday unless an election problem came up.
Whether this Court chooses to let the election contest proceed in the Bibb County Superior Court, is a matter left to this Courts discretion, Jones attorneys wrote.
Jones also told the court that Bibb County has refused to discuss settling his legal fees in the case.
Telegraph reporter Mike Stucka contributed to this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.