Attorney Henry Williams, left, and Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church Pastor Lorenzo Heard stand on the steps of the Dougherty County Courthouse Tuesday where they announced they have filed suit to force the county Board of Elections to place Heard’s name on the November ballot against Lane Price in the at-large school board race.
ALBANY, Ga. — Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church pastor Lorenzo Heard has filed suit in Dougherty County Superior Court seeking to force the county elections board to place his name on the Nov. 6 ballot as an independent in the county School Board race against Lane Price.
Heard’s attorney, Henry Williams, filed the suit late Tuesday afternoon and held a news conference with Heard hours later to announce the action.
“Instead of getting his day on the ballot, Rev. Heard will get his day in court,” said Williams. “This is all about giving the voters a choice and it has nothing to do with the other candidate. This is also about due process and fairness and the appearance of fairness.
“We’ve been caught up in the barbed wire of technicalities.”
Williams said the case is built around two “flaws” in the process the board used in rejecting Heard’s candidacy.
Williams claims the elections office erred in not accepting Heard’s notice of candidacy application.
He also contends the office erred in determining the number of valid petition signatures Heard needed to get his name on the ballot.
Heard’s certificate of candidacy was presented to the elections office by County Commissioner-elect Clinton Johnson just prior to the noon qualifying deadline.
The paperwork, which had been time stamped, was rejected and 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.
When asked the location of the original notarized document, Heard responded “it no longer exists. It was shredded.”
Heard then said the time stamped original was shredded “out of frustration.”
In regard to the signature petitions, Williams claimed the elections office is using flawed numbers.
The signatures of 2,911 registered Dougherty County voters (five percent of more than 59,000 county voters) were needed on the candidacy petition.
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.
Williams said the elections office should have used numbers from the last general election, which was held in 2008.
“There were 46,000 registered voters in Dougherty County in 2008, they should not have used the 59,000 they are currently using,” Williams said. “If the starting basis is flawed then the requisite number of signatures is also flawed.”
Williams added that by using the “correct” number of 46,000 registered voters in 2008, Heard would need just 2,626 certified signatures rather than 2,911.
“There is a discrepancy in the numbers the elections office is using,” Williams said. “All we want is for the citizens of Dougherty County to have a choice in this election.”