Rev. Lorenzo Heard speaks to former NAACP President William Wright following Friday's election board meeting. Members of the board voted against allowing Heard to be on the November ballot for the Dougherty County School System At-Large seat.
ALBANY — The Dougherty County Elections Board voted Friday to disqualify Lorenzo Heard as a possible independent candidate for the at-large school board seat.
The signatures of 2,911 registered Dougherty County voters were needed on the candidacy petition. County Elections officials certified just 1,672 signatures of the 3,258 submitted; 1,202 signatures were not certified when it became obvious Heard would not reach the required 2,911 threshold.
The Board also rejected Heard's bid because he failed to submit a true affidavit of candidacy and had failed to pay a $108 qualifying fee prior to an Aug. 3 noon deadline.
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The Board vote was 4-0 with Lonzie White absent.
"I am not surprised by the Board's decision, in fact I expected it," Heard, the pastor at Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church, said. "The was a lot of talk in the paper about me not paying my qualifying fee, but how can I pay a qualifying fee when the election office had rejected my candidacy affidavit?"
Heard attempted to qualify as an independent candidate on the final day of qualifying after Lane Price defeated incumbent School Board member Anita Williams-Brown in the July 31 Democratic Primary. There are no Republican candidates for the seat, which is elected at-large in the county.
Prior to the vote, Dougherty Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson confirmed that just before the noon qualifying deadline on Aug. 3, elections officials rejected Heard's notice of candidacy, which was brought to them by County Commissioner-elect Clinton Johnson after determining that it was a copy and not an affidavit.
The paperwork, which had been time stamped, was returned to Johnson, who then left the building. On Aug. 6, Heard arrived at the elections office with his petition signatures, and claimed the document Johnson presented three days earlier was an original affidavit.
"Later I asked him (Heard) to return with the true document, but I was informed it had been shredded," County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson said.
"You can't just disqualify a candidate because of a mistake made by someone in the elections office," Heard's attorney, Maurice King, said. "They made the mistake. They should have accepted the document and the qualifying fee and given the Board the opportunity to reject the affidavit of candidacy. I don't think the person in the office had the legal authority to reject the petition.
King said Heard will take a few days to mull over his legal options.
"Rev. Heard has five days to file a writ of mandamus to place his name on the ballot in November or we can file for a stay of the election. Rev. Heard's name will be on the ballot," King said.
Last week the Board also rejected the candidacy of Terrance Wilson, who had attempted to get on the ballot as an independent against suspended District 3 BOE member Velvet Riggins, because he failed to obtain the required number of qualifying petition signatures.