BER may throw out petition
Board has problem with notary candidate Fitzgerald used
By Brandon Park
Sheriff candidate Keith Fitzgerald submitted his nomination petition to run as an Independent Monday morning, a day earlier than the Tuesday deadline.
A total of 425 signatures was needed. Fitzgerald submitted more than 600. Of those, one signature could possibly disqualify all 47 pages of the petition.
The Board of Elections and Registration (BER) Chairman John Milliken called a meeting Monday because Fitzgerald's notary public for all sheets of the petition was also a signed elector on one of the sheets.
Georgia Election Code 21-2-170 states that any and all sheets of a petition that have the circulator's affidavit notarized by a notary public who signed one of the sheets of the petition as an elector shall be disqualified and rejected.
The complication encountered by the BER was deciding whether to disqualify all pages of the petition, or just the one specific page with the notary's signature as an elector.
A two-to-one vote, with board member Avery Jackson opposing, tabled the decision in order to allow BER attorney Christian Henry the opportunity to gather more legal information.
According to Fitzgerald, he discovered the mistake Monday, and reported it to Elections Supervisor Bobby Howington. Fitzgerald claims that Howington informed him that only the one sheet in question would be disqualified.
"While talking to the secretary that signed as the notary public, she said she thought she signed one of the petitions and I knew she couldn't do that," Fitzgerald said. "I told Mr. Howington first thing this morning. I said, 'Mr. Howington, please check because I think she is on one of these petitions.' Mr. Howington said we will have to eliminate that one sheet, and I said that would be fine...If I would have known this, I would have driven to Walton County and had this done."
The BER contacted the Director of State Elections Anne Hicks earlier in the day for assistance. According to Milliken, Hicks initially said only the one sheet would be disqualified. She then called back and stated that every sheet the notary public notarized gets disqualified. In Fitzgerald's case, that is every sheet of the
"I had until noon tomorrow, and could have gotten any one to do this," Fitzgerald said. "The reason I wanted to make these perfect is I knew that these petitions would be looked over with a fine tooth comb. I would appreciate some leniency on this. I am in the middle of an election, and this could significantly hurt my campaign. I will have to put everything on hold because of this. If this is drawn out, the election could be here and I could be out of the water."
The board explained that they wanted to follow the law and election code to resolve this matter, and do it as quickly as possible.
"I thought we were treating you and the public fairly by addressing this question as rapidly as possible, rather than waiting until the first week in August, and then bringing it up," Milliken said.
A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for next Monday, July 14 and is open to the public.