Lane Price and Lorenzo Heard
ALBANY, Ga. — Lane Price’s overwhelming victory over the Rev. Lorenzo Heard in the Nov. 6 race for the at-large seat on the Dougherty County School Board got even larger Monday.
The Albany-Dougherty County Board of Registration and Elections met for almost two hours Monday to certify the election results. After the elections board met and considered every write-in ballot cast in the election and Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson’s office systematically considered each ballot cast, the final tally showed Price with 27,114 votes and Heard with 3,583.
“We want to establish parameters where if we get a name that’s anywhere near ‘Lorenzo’ or anywhere near ‘Heard’ — if there is an obvious attempt to vote (for Heard) — we will take all of those,” board member Walter Blankenship said before the process began. “If we err, we should err on the side of the voter rather than on the side of a machine.”
The certification, required by the state of Georgia, capped what Elections officials said was, for Dougherty County, “one of the most well-run elections we’ve had.”
“In preparing for the election, I told our workers to prepare for the most so that they wouldn’t have to scramble,” Nickerson said. “I think it showed that (volunteers and staff) did that. You can look at how smoothly things went Friday (Nov. 2, the last day of advance voting) when we had more than 1,000 voters come through our office and more than 800 in the Candy Room.”
Elections Board Chairman Alan Pendleton praised Nickerson, her staff and volunteers for a smoothly run process that many thought would be chaotic.
“I think if people observed what goes on in that office during the election process, they’d understand how difficult a job it is,” Pendleton said. “It’s not just counting pencils and preparing the touch screens; there are so many small details that go into it. And this is a situation where a small mistake can have a dramatic impact.”
Board member Commodore Conyers also praised the Elections staff.
“The elections superviser and her staff did a tremendous job during this election,” Conyers said. “Their advance planning and organization made the difference. People have made unfounded negative comments about our Elections office in the past, and most of them were unfair. We stand behind our folks.”
Board member Freddye Phipps was unable to attend Monday’s certification meeting, and Lonzie White, appointed by the local Democratic party, told officials he would not be a part of the process.
“We need to have that matter on the agenda for Wednesday’s board meeting,” Blankenship said.
As Nickerson read off misspelled names on write-in ballots, board members disqualified no more than a handful. Some of the ballots that were not counted included those with “Pay,” “Rev. Health,” “Rev. Halus,” “Rev. Howard,” “James Heard,” “Rev. Lorenzo,” “RN,” “THE Game,” “Willie Heard” and “Willie Nelson.”
The board allowed ballots that contained pretty much every possible misspelling of Heard’s last and first names so long as they could determine the voter’s intent was to name Heard on the ballot.
“Intent, that’s the law,” Pendleton said. “I have no problem with allowing anything that comes close to ‘Lorenzo Heard,’ so long as the voter’s intent is clear.”