Judge orders new Macon-Bibb election for District 2, refuses to appoint interim

mstucka@macon.comDecember 11, 2013 

A judge on Wednesday ordered a new election for Macon-Bibb County’s Commission District 2, but residents won’t have representation for the first two weeks of the new year.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Boswell ordered the new election for Jan. 14 after noting every side of a court battle agreed the Oct. 15 runoff election was flawed. In that election, Larry Schlesinger appeared to defeat Henry Ficklin by just 26 votes. Ficklin later concluded that at least 48 people had been given ballots for the wrong election district.

“The number of incorrectly assigned voters was sufficient to change or place in doubt the results of the election,” Boswell wrote in his court order.

But Boswell refused to appoint either Schlesinger or Ficklin to represent the district until the new election is held. Both wanted the job, which would effectively make an appointee an incumbent before the election.

Ficklin and Schlesinger both serve on the Macon City Council, but that government is dissolving at the end of the year. Schlesinger argued for the appointment because he received more votes in the already-held elections. Ficklin also argued for the position, saying he had been representing the area well before Schlesinger moved there.

Boswell noted that attorneys for Ficklin and Schlesinger found little legal basis to support their positions.

“This matter is a novel, yet important issue. And, like the parties, the Court cannot find a case directly on point,” Boswell wrote. But Boswell decided because the previous election had to be voided, he can’t appoint Ficklin, Schlesinger or anyone else as an interim commissioner.

Other legal arguments are outstanding. Boswell said Ficklin’s request for attorney’s fees and costs can be considered later by the court, and he said anyone can file another lawsuit to explore whether an interim representative should be appointed.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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