ALBANY A judge will hear the legal challenge of the Ward II election results brought by candidate Melissa Strother Friday morning, officials say.
Judge Joe Bishop has set the hearing for 9 a.m. Friday morning at the Dougherty County Courthouse.
Candidate Melissa Strother has filed a legal challenge in Dougherty County Superior Court questioning the Ward II election based on a series of "irregularities" Strother contends has led to a questionable outcome.
That outcome led the city commission to swear in candidate Ivey Hines as the Ward II Commissioner Tuesday night, after he received the 50 percent-plus-one-vote majority needed to win the seat when elections officials nullified votes cast for candidate Cheryl Calhoun, who had been ruled ineligible as a candidate based on her residency.
The board of elections, through County Attorney Spencer Lee acknowledged during its November board meeting that a "mistake was made," that allowed Calhoun to qualify for the Ward II race despite the fact she lived in Ward I.
Elections officials contend that, despite that mistake, they followed the law in tossing any votes that had been cast for Calhoun. Had her votes been allowed to stand, Hines would NOT have had the majority needed to carry the seat and would've prompted a runoff between he and Strother.
After hearing Strother's case, Bishop could rule a number of ways including validating the election results which would keep Hines in Ward II seat or invalidating the results which would trigger a special election and declare the seat vacant until the election could be called.
Following an open records request from the Albany Herald, Dougherty County Elections officials have turned over a "statement of votes cast" that shows that as many as 116 people who voted in the general election and were eligible to cast a vote in the Ward II race, skipped that part of the ballot.
According to that document, a total of 1,478 people who lived in Ward II voted during the general election. Of that number, 1,362 cast votes in the Ward II race, meaning that 116 others who either went to the polls or voted absentee in Ward II failed to cast a vote in the Ward II race.
It's significant because the gap between Hines and Strother was only 45 votes, and, depending on how those 116 would've voted, could've changed the outcome of the election or allowed Hines to win the ward outright.