The second-place finisher in Tuesday’s election for the Georgia House District 142 seat says he will challenge the way the election was conducted.
The state of Georgia counted 2,923 votes for Miriam Paris as of Tuesday night. The tally for Gerald Harvey was 2,445 votes.
The state did not count an additional 844 votes that were cast for disqualified candidate Frank Austin.
Harvey contends that voters were not necessarily aware that votes for Austin were invalid. He said he thinks that if voters had been better informed, some of those votes would have gone his way, possibly changing the outcome.
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“I’m in the process of launching a formal challenge,” said Harvey, who told The Telegraph he has met with an attorney and they are working on a strategy. He said they are doing the local legwork to build a case.
"If who won didn’t win, I say let’s do the whole damn thing over again," Harvey said.
He alleges that at some precincts, Macon-Bibb County election officials did not post notices about Austin’s disqualification.
Macon-Bibb Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson said the signs were posted at the county’s two early voting locations.
As for the polling places Tuesday, Watson said that as of late Wednesday she had so far confirmed that signs had been posted at five of the eight precincts that included the House District 142 race on the ballot. Watson said she’s working on checking on the other three sites and could provide another update as soon as Thursday.
“We’re trying to check with the ones where the allegations were made and find out if they got them, if they were hung, if a voter may have come in and taken them. We don’t know,” Watson said.
A disqualification is fairly unusual, and this one is complicated because the disqualification happened so close to election day.
In March, three Democrats qualified to run for the seat: Harvey, Paris and Austin. No Republican signed up to run, leaving the race to be decided in the Democratic primary.
But on April 20, an administrative law judge, acting on a complaint from Harvey, ruled that Austin had not lived in House District 142 long enough to run for the seat. On April 27, the state’s top election official, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, formally adopted that ruling and disqualified Austin, cutting the race down to two candidates.
Kemp’s office said at that time that it was too late to create new ballots without Austin’s name, so notices would be posted at voting sites saying that votes for Austin would not count.
Under state law, Harvey may attempt to contest the election results in court, said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
Paris said she doesn’t have any comment on Harvey’s charges.
Austin, meanwhile, gave up the chance to ask for an appeal of his disqualification in a court in Fulton County earlier this month. He said he thinks the judge would have ruled in his favor, but that it was better to drop the bid due to all the confusion in the election.
On Wednesday, Austin called Harvey the “author” of the confusion that led to his leaving the race.
“It’s time for him to live with the outcome of his actions,” Austin said in a written statement. Austin also said he wishes Paris the best of luck and that he is working on plans to run again in 2018.
Maggie Lee: @maggie_a_lee