Dougherty County Elections Supervisor Ginger Nickerson confers with Elections Board attorney Ed Collier Tuesday during the second day of Lorenzo Heard’s suit against the Board.
ALBANY, Ga. — Lorenzo Heard's attorneys, Maurice King and Henry Williams, shifted gears in Heard's suit against the Dougherty Board of Elections on Tuesday, but they are running out of time.
Heard is suing the board in an attempt to get his name on the Nov. 6 ballot to run as an independent candidate in the Dougherty School Board at-large race against Democrat Lane Price.
But Elections official confirmed Tuesday that more than 800 absentee ballots (without Heard's name) have already been mailed out.
King and Williams called to the witness stand all six Elections office workers who inspected the 3,258 signatures on petitions collected by Heard.
The office eventually validated just 1,897 signatures, falling far short of the number required to get on the ballot.
The required number, however, depends on whom you believe. The Heard camp says just 2,311 signatures are required, while the county says 2,632 are needed.
Williams attempted to influence Superior Court Judge J. Richard Porter to get some of the rejected signatures validated by questioning if the staff was qualified and trained enough to make disqualification decisions on the questionable signatures.
Of special interest to Williams are 262 signatures disallowed because the petition signatures did not match the signatures on registration card files.
Williams then focused on the Elections office and supervisor Ginger Nickerson.
"Our Elections office is a mess; the tail is wagging the dog in Dougherty County," Williams said. "We have mass confusion in that office with nobody in charge. Doubt reigns, and that doubt should be resolved in favor of Rev. Heard.
"Either way we look at it, there is enough confusion that only the court can resolve this issue now. In this county, elections officials are affecting the outcome of elections and this has to change."
Earlier board attorney Ed Collier made a motion for dismissal of the case, citing the Nov. 8 election numbers requirement of 2,632 signatures, or 5 percent of the county's more than 52,000 registered voters in the Nov. 2008 general election.
"Trust me when I say the county was very generous in issuing 1,897 verified signatures out of the 3,258 they turned in," Collier said. "Even when the Elections office bent over backwards for them, they still couldn't reach the required threshold. Any way you cut it, the numbers just aren't there.
Porter denied Collier's motion.
"I need to look at all the facts, and some of the facts are very inconsistent," Porter said in his ruling.
Collier then called Clinton Porter, who delivered Heard's Notice of Candidacy to the elections office on Aug. 3.
"Rev. Heard emailed me the signed document, and I signed over it as his agent, had it notarized and took it to the Elections office," Johnson testified. "I was looking at it with one of the office workers (Sharon Armbrust), and Ms. Nickerson walked by and asked it it was an original document. I said 'yes,' but she just shook her head.
"The worker gave me the document back and I left."
When asked what he did with the document, Johnson answered, "I destroyed it."
When Collier asked why he destroyed it, Johnson testified, "I was frustrated. When denied, the document was worthless, trash. She (Nickerson) made it nothing."
Nickerson, later contacted by local and state Democratic party officials, was assured by both the document was an original. She then called Johnson to ask him to return to the elections office with the document but was told it had been destroyed.
"I feel like she misled me," Johnson said.
Recalled to the stand by Collier, Nickerson defended herself.
"I never laid eyes on the document," Nickerson testified. "When he was in the office, I said it needs to be an original document. But I never saw a Notice of Candidacy on Aug. 3."
Closing arguments are set for this morning. Since the hearing is a bench trial, Porter said to not expect his ruling today.
ALBANY, Ga.: Judge Richard Porter has denied a motion from Board of Elections Attorney Ed Collier seeking to dismiss an appeal by Rev. Lorenzo Heard -- an appeal, that if successful, could land Heard on the November ballot for a school board seat.
Heard's appeal has now resumed and District 3 Dougherty County Commissioner-elect Clinton Johnson, who works for Heard, is now on the witness stand.
Previous updates are below.
Election board seeks to dismiss Heard's appeal to be on the ballot
The attorney representing the Dougherty County Elections Board moved to have Rev. Lorenzo Heard's appeal of a decision by the board to keep him off the ballot, dismissed.
Ed Collier has asked the judge hearing the case to dismiss Heard's appeal. Heard is attempting to be put on the ballot as an independent candidate for the at-large School Board seat.
Previous story version below.
Elections workers called to testify in Heard appeal
A worker with the Dougherty County Board of Elections was called to the stand to testify Tuesday morning as a trial to determine if Rev. Lorenzo Heard is qualified to seek the at-large school board seat resumed.
Cathy Crowdis, the wife of Dougherty County Administrator Richard Crowdis and a worker in the board of elections office is being questioned by Heard's attorney Henry Williams about how elections officials decided which signatures on petitions offered by Heard were approved or disqualified.
Heard is contending that he should be allowed to be on the ballot in November as independent candidate to run against Lane Price, the Democrat who beat incumbent Anita Williams-Brown in the July Primary.
Heard has met the requirements to be a write-in candidate, should his bid to qualify as an independent fail.