ALBANY, Ga. — Superior Court Judge J. Richard Porter III has given attorneys until Oct. 19 to file written final arguments in Lorenzo Heard's suit against the Dougherty Elections Board.
Porter ended the hearing late Tuesday after two days of testimony.
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.
On Aug. 24, the Board denied Heard a spot on the ballot, and four days later he filed his lawsuit. He later qualified to run for the seat as a write-in candidate.
Heard's attorneys, Maurice King and Henry Williams, say their 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 Dougherty County Commissioner-elect Clinton Johnson just prior to the noon qualifying deadline on Aug. 3
The paperwork, which had been time-stamped but rejected by Elections officials who said it was not an original document, 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, but it had been destroyed.
On Tuesday, the attorneys switched their emphasis to the petition signature numbers.
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 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 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.
Porter said he will base his decision on Georgia law, specifically citing Georgia Code 21-1-171 (C) which reads:
"The decision of the officer denying a nomination petition may be reviewed by the Superior Court of the county containing the office of such officer upon an application for a writ of mandamus to compel the granting of such petition. The application for such writ of mandamus shall be made within five days of the time when the petitioner is notified of such decision.
"Upon the application being made, a judge of such court shall fix a time and place for hearing the matter in dispute as soon as practicable; and notice thereof shall be served with a copy of such application upon the officer with whom the nomination petition was filed and upon the petitioner. At the time fixed by the court, or any judge thereof assigned for the purpose, shall hear the case.
"If after such hearing the said court shall find that the decision of the officer was erroneous, it shall issue its mandate to the officer to correct his or her decision and to grant the nomination petition.
"From any decision of the Superior Court an appeal may be taken within five days after the entry thereof to the Supreme Court. It shall be the duty of the Supreme Court to fix the hearing and to announce its decision within such period of time as will permit the name of the candidate affected by the court's decision to be printed on the ballot if the court should so determine."
The judge did not indicate when he will render a decision.