ALBANY — After consulting with state elections officials, Albany election officials have voided votes cast for Cheryl Calhoun in the Ward II election Tuesday, and declared the Rev. Ivey Hines the apparent winner.
The vote won’t be official until next Tuesday when the unofficial results are certified by the Dougherty County Elections Board.
Melissa Strother, a candidate in the Ward II race, said Wednesday that her campaign would contest the election if a runoff was not called. After consulting with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson tossed 247 votes cast for Cheryl Calhoun and stripped them from the voting totals, giving Hines 51.4 percent of the remaining votes and Strother, 47.5 percent.
Strother, who met with Nickerson Wednesday morning, and her campaign manager Kilena Underwood said they have taken issue with the fact that Calhoun’s name wasn’t removed from the ballot when she was disqualified from running, and believe that Tuesday’s results should be voided and a new election called and held on the same day as the Mayoral runoff Dec. 6.
“That’s seems like the most fair thing to do for everyone involved,” Underwood said.
Campaign officials for Strother say that they’re prepared to take additional steps if results of the race stand.
“We’ve got a lawyer and if things don’t change we’re prepared to take additional steps, which, in all likelihood would mean filing a formal complaint and challenging the election,” Underwood said.
Those efforts to challenge the election may be thwarted, however, by the city commission which had intended on swearing in the winner of Tuesday’s Ward II race as early as Tuesday, city clerk Sonya Tolbert said.
City Attorney Nathan Davis says that as soon as the votes are certified by the election board, the commission will swear-in Hines.
“Ward II has been without representation now for quite some time so I think that the powers that be will swear in the winner of that race as soon as possible,” Davis said.
Because that race was technically a special election to fill a seat that had been vacated on the commission, the board of commissioners would normally swear in the winning candidate immediately, where as the winners of the other races won’t be sworn in until January.
While that may end up being on the commission’s Tuesday agenda, elections officials say that the results of the election won’t be certified until Tuesday at noon, which would be after the commission meets at 8:30 a.m.
Calhoun was disqualified as a candidate based on her residency. She was initially allowed to qualify as a candidate because of an error that resulted in her being listed in the voter registration database as residing in Ward II.
Under Georgia law, Strother can contest the election itself in Dougherty County Superior Court on the grounds of “misconduct, fraud, or irregularity by any primary or election official or officials sufficient to change or place in doubt the result.”
Looking at the total number of votes cast during Tuesday’s election, 192 people voted at the precincts in Ward II for Calhoun despite the fact that signs had been put up saying that she was not a valid candidate. Another 49 voted for her during the Early Voting period while six mailed in absentee ballots for her. In total, Calhoun picked up more than 18.5 percent of the total votes cast in the race.
A look at the precinct-by-precinct breakdown shows Hines took a majority of the votes at Jackson Heights Elementary Precinct, 60.3 percent, and Albany Middle School Precinct, 55.1 percent.
Strother carried the majority in the Palmyra Road Methodist Church Precinct, 65.7 percent.