The Bibb County Board of Elections on Wednesday disputed House 142 candidate Gerald Harvey’s claim that an election redo is in order because signs were not properly posted to inform voters in last month’s primary election that one of the contenders had been disqualified.
Harvey lost the May 24 election to Miriam Paris by 478 votes. Paris drew 2,923 votes to Harvey’s 2,445.
But candidate Frank Austin Jr., who was disqualified from the race but whose name was still on the ballot, received 844 votes.
The board, in its response to Harvey’s petition contesting the race, said elections officials first learned of a possible problem the evening of the election. They found that at three of nine polling places, required signs hadn’t been posted to let voters know about Austin’s disqualification.
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At the three polling spots where signs were not posted — precincts on Anthony, Bloomfield and Rocky Creek roads — there were 93 votes cast for Austin.
“Accordingly, the failure to have the signs posted at these three precincts could not possibly have affected the outcome,” the board’s attorney, William H. Noland, said in a statement to The Telegraph.
Harvey also disputed wording on signs that were posted, saying the signs declared that Austin had “withdrawn,” not that Austin had been “disqualified.” In April, Austin was ruled ineligible to run because he hadn’t lived in the district long enough.
Noland, in his statement, said the wording on the signs was inconsequential, that “this is a distinction without a difference.”
The attorney said signs posted “very clearly advised voters that votes for Mr. Austin would be void and not counted.”
Noland went on to note that elections officials “regret that signs were not posted at three of the precincts. ... Fortunately, in this instance, the mistakes that were made did not affect the outcome or call the result of the election into question.”
The board’s response to Harvey’s petition was filed in Bibb Superior Court.
An evidentiary hearing on the matter will likely take place in the coming weeks.
A judge, who will be chosen from a judicial circuit outside Macon, could order a new election or deny the petition.
Harvey’s lawyer, Wayne Kendall of Fayetteville, said Wednesday that voters at some polling places — locations other than the three in question — have said they didn’t see signs declaring Austin disqualified.
“The law says it has to be conspicuously posted,” Kendall said. “So we’ve got to find out where they were posted. ... You can’t put a sign over in the corner somewhere.”
Kendall added that because Austin “got so many votes” that in order for them not to have voted for Paris or for Harvey, “you’ve got to believe that 844 people wanted to throw away their vote.”
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Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.