A judge has denied Gerald Harvey’s petition to throw out results of the May Georgia House 142 seat election.
Harvey argued the Bibb County Board of Elections didn’t properly post signs about Frank Austin Jr. being disqualified from the race.
Miriam Paris, who received 2,925 votes, was declared the winner over Harvey, who received 2,450.
Elections supervisor Janetta Watson testified at a Sept. 2 hearing in Bibb County Superior Court that election officials first learned of a problem about an hour before polls closed. They discovered mistakes were made at three of the nine precincts where votes were cast in the race.
At the three precincts, 93 votes were cast for Austin, who had been disqualified due to residency restrictions.
In his order, signed Tuesday, Senior Judge Gary McCorvey included a series of reasons why people might have voted for Austin: They were friends, relatives or co-workers. They wanted to show support for him despite his disqualification. They protested his disqualification. They didn’t want to vote for the other candidates. They saw he was listed first alphabetically. They didn’t know he was disqualified.
“Even assuming that the 93 total votes cast for Mr. Austin, the disqualified candidate, at the three polling places at which the notices were not posted were not cast due to one of the potential reasons listed … these votes are not enough to cast doubt on the results of the election under any standard which might be applicable to this case,” the judge wrote.
McCorvey, a retired judge from Tifton, presided in the case because Georgia law requires an outside judge to handle elections cases.
Contacted Thursday, Watson’s lawyer, William Noland, said, “The margin of victory in the race was 475 votes. Accordingly, the outcome of the election could not possibly have been affected, even if you assume that all 93 votes would have gone to Mr. Harvey.”
“I believe the judge’s decision is fair and correct,” he said.
Wayne Kendall, Harvey’s attorney, declined comment Thursday.
Seven Bibb County voters who cast ballots in the election testified at the hearing, saying they didn’t see signs at the polls saying Austin had been disqualified. When questioned by lawyers representing the board of elections and Paris, each witness admitted to being a friend or associate of Harvey.
Several of the witnesses said they knew Austin’s candidacy either was in question or that he’d been disqualified before they voted.
Watson said poll managers at the three polling places where mistakes were made were disciplined and no longer will be working at the polls.
The House 142 seat vacancy was created by Rep. Nikki Randall’s retirement from office.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.