Dougherty County Attorney Spencer Lee, left, speaks with City Attorney Nathan Davis before a special-called meeting of the Dougherty County Elections Board as Ward II Candidate Cheryl Calhoun and her husband Randal look on. Calhoun was disqualified as a candidate because she lives in Ward I.
ALBANY The Dougherty County Board of Elections voted 3-0, with two members absent, to disqualify Cheryl Calhoun as a candidate the Ward II City Commission seat.
Despite being allowed to qualify as a candidate for the seat now vacated by former commissioner Dorothy Hubbard, Calhoun's 1525 Georgia Avenue residence sits one block on the wrong side of the Ward II map -- in Ward I.
Walter Blankenship, the chairman of the board of elections, told Calhoun he was sympathetic to her plight Wednesday, but that the board was obligated to follow the city's charter and state law.
"Our degree of disappointment and regret that we share with you doesn't negate our responsibilities as members of this board," Blankenship said before the vote.
Calhoun, who was visibly distraught and who left the meeting briefly before stepping back in before the vote, told the board that she wasn't angry with what had happened, but was very disappointed.
"I know I did everything that was right," Calhoun said. "I'm not angry, I'm just very disappointed and I wish you all would have shown us the map before I was allowed to qualify."
According to the official district maps that divide the city into six political districts known as wards, addresses along the block that are 1499 or less on Georgia Avenue fall into Ward II while addresses from 1500 up on Georgia Avenue fall into Ward I.
After looking at the maps initially, Calhoun went to qualify to run against Ward I incumbent commissioner Jon Howard. But after her address information was put into the elections' database, her information came up as being registered in Ward II.
Despite being questioned by Calhoun and her husband, Calhoun was told to come back during the special qualifying period for the Ward II race and qualify then, which she was allowed to do.
Calhoun said that she and her husband had received a voter registration card in the mail that shows they were in Ward II which was apparently sent in error based on errant data that was put into the city's GIS mapping system by city officials.
Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said that Wednesday morning 100 residents of Georgia Avenue were transferred from Ward II to Ward I on the voter registration rolls based on the information obtained during the review of Calhoun's qualification.
City Attorney Nathan Davis, who was at the meeting, called the incident an "inadvertent error," and said that he will suggest that the commission refund Calhoun's $450 qualification fee despite the fact that state law prohibits refunds after the qualifying period "even for qualification."
"But I think that statute is aimed at situations where the candidate is in error. In this case, it clearly wasn't the fault of the candidate but of the local government that resulted in the disqualification," Davis said.