Ficklin election lawsuit headed to court

mstucka@macon.comNovember 25, 2013 

A judge Tuesday could decide whether the new Macon-Bibb County government needs a new election.

The Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections agrees with Henry Ficklin -- officially, the No. 2 vote-getter in the District 2 commission race -- that the number of people casting ballots in the wrong district exceeds Ficklin’s 26-vote loss to Larry Schlesinger. Ficklin’s lawsuit is scheduled to be heard at 1 p.m. Tuesday in Bibb County Superior Court.

Both Ficklin and Schlesinger filed diametrically opposed requests to the court. Schlesinger is asking a judge to uphold the results of the election and throw out Ficklin’s lawsuit. Ficklin is asking the judge to nullify the Oct. 15 runoff election results and call for a new election. The District 2 runoff was by far the closest of the Oct. 15 races.

The board of elections is saying only that it wants a fair and legal election process, and it is neither trying to call for a new election nor oppose one.

A decision ultimately will be up to Senior Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell, a judge from outside the judicial circuit who had heard and shot down a residency challenge against District 9 Commissioner-elect Al Tillman. State law requires an outside judge be called to oversee such election challenges.

In a news release, the board of elections acknowledged the border between Districts 2 and 3 cuts through an apartment complex, and all of those voters in the complex mistakenly were placed in District 3. The elections board said its state-provided software can’t allow voters with the same address to vote in different districts. The Overlook Gardens apartments are near the Gray Highway Wal-Mart, not far from Northeast High School.

Ficklin also is seeking attorney’s fees in the case.

One of his attorneys, Jerry Wilson, said “this case has been prolonged by the litigiousness of Respondent Larry Schlesinger.” Wilson is asking for legal fees of $6,690, though he claims he is due $13,098.40. Ficklin’s other attorney, Wayne Kendall, also blames Schlesinger’s “stubborn litigiousness” for his bills to Ficklin of $13,352.50. Kendall said Ficklin himself is due $711.96 in out-of-pocket litigation costs.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

This map shows how the new Macon-Bibb County commission districts slice through the Overlook Gardens apartment complex in East Macon. The apartments are roughly between Northeast High School and the Wal-Mart on Gray Highway.

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