UPDATE: The Fulton County Board of Elections ruled that Mary Norwood will NOT appear on the ballot in November.
I’m live-blogging the Fulton County Board of Elections hearing featuring the Mary Norwood bid to get on the ballot to run for Fulton County Chairman.
Full Disclosure: I served as the Field Director and a campaign strategist for John Eaves during his 2006 winning campaign for Fulton County chairman. I performed an post-election analysis for Mary Norwood on her 2009 bid for Mayor of Atlanta. I will let the punditocracy just chew on that for a while.
Background: Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections is comprised of 5 individuals:
– Rod Edmond, Chair, Democrat
– William Riley, Jr., Vice Chair, Republican
– Sam Westmoreland, Democrat
– Cynthia Williams, Democrat
– Stan Matarazzo, Republican
Rod Edmonds only gets to vote when there is a tie.
Here’s what I don’t understand – how can Fulton County/Georgia proclaim that the ballot process is accessible to all when 1) there isn’t a Libertarian or Independent voice on the Board of Registration and Elections and 2) how does an Independent argue that there shouldn’t be a 2 Party rule when they are arguing to the people in the 2 Party system.
The Case: This hearing is to determine whether the Board will allow Mary Norwood on the ballot despite her qualifying later than the designated qualifying hour.
1:59 pm: The room is packed with Norwood supporters. An equal mix of young, old, black, white, men, and women.The only Democrat I see so far is Ms. Cynthia.
2:00 pm: Rod Edmond just arrived.
2:01 pm: Lots of teevee cameras, but I’m the only blogger – cuz BfD rulez!!
2:05 pm: Rod calls the meeting to order.
2:06 pm: Rod admits that the letters he sent to the Norwood campaign were his own personal thoughts and were not reflective of the entire Board.
2:07 pm: Damn you Board member Riley. He wants to move the Norwood presentation to the end instead of where it is placed on the agenda – at the beginning. Rod shuts him down. the media people are happy.
2:08 pm: Matt McQuire, Mary ‘s lawyer is speaking. Oh crap look for me in the background on the tv . Matt states that Mary has submitted 30,000 petitions at 11 am today. Acknowledges that Mary filed late and asks the Board to accept her nomination. Says the Board has the discretion to accept her. Now he’s talking about the codes that should give her the right to get on the ballot.
Matt’s argument: did the code explicitly say she had to follow the directive or was it a mandatory requirement. Says that the Board should allow relief because there was no expressed injury to anyone.
Rod is arguing that there is a penalty of a misdemeanor for failure to adhere to the qualifying date/time. Matt is about to give his counter argument. A little bit of a delay…Matt doesn’t seem to be prepared to counter Rod’s question. Matt’s flipping through his many books.
Rod tells Matt to move on and continue his presentation – he will bring it back up.
Matt says that a deadline can be missed because the code doesn’t strictly say there is a penalty. Now he’s citing some US court ruling and is also citing the Texas case 2 years that allowed McCain and Obama to get on the ballot 3 days after the qualifying deadline. Matt says the court did this to allow people to have a choice.
Matt says no harm came to the Board or the other candidates. Says that if she’s not on the ballot then it is an exclusion.
Matt says that the easy thing for the Board is to kick Mary off the Board but he believes that they are not a robotic Board.
Board member Riley is wondering how the Texas Secretary of State that decided the Obama/McCain is the same as the Fulton Board.
Lee Parks, the Board’s lawyer wants to know what the reason is that Mary missed the deadline.
2:24 pm: Mary is now up to present her case. She’s giving the history of her grassroots campaign. Explains that her campaign manager was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer and this was the same week they had to deal with the John Eaves’ law case. Says the campaign was in a state of turmoil when they received the breast cancer info. Says she was relying on her campaign manager.
Says she could have quit on that day, but persevered and still got 30,000 signatures. Is now asking the Board to approve her candidacy on behalf of those 30k people that signed those petitions.
2:30 pm: Matt is back up and answering Rod’s original question. Yeah it’s a good thing this dude has a law degree cuz there is some circular stuff written in the Georgia code. Says the statute for penalty only applies to partisan candidates. Oops I guess the wizards at the Gold Dome didn’t write that in.
2:32 pm: Riley is back again talking about why isn’t there any harm that Mary filed later. Matt is saying that he doubts the election dept. folks were just sitting around waiting for Mary. OK now I don’t know if Riley is arguing for or against Mary – I’m way confused.
2:34 pm: Nancy Bowers, citizen and volunteer for Norwood, she is doing a passionate plea. A little Shakespeare for me…but I’m no playwright. Thinks the Board should move Georgia out of the dark ages of ballot access. Says that 30,000 voters can’t be wrong. Says that when rules fail to represent the will of the people then the rules must be changed.
Damn cranky Riley is back. he doesn’t want anyone to clap. Rod says that this isn’t church. LOL.
2:37 pm: Christina Henderson, director of Free and Equal, Inc, the group that was hired to get the signatures. Says Georgia has the most restrictive laws. Another drama moment. Maybe I just don’t have “passion” in my ears today – I’m tired. Oh my she’s using hand motions now. Says she has never seen this much grassroots support in all the 50 states that she has worked in.
2:40 pm: Garland Favarito is speaking now. Says that no one has ever made this feat before of acquiring so many petitions. Says that as a Fulton County voter that he will be harmed if Mary is not on the ballot.
2:41 pm: Rod moves to go into Executive Session to go over the legal ramifications. The 4 Board members – no Sam Westmoreland – and Lee Parks exit and go into another room.
Damn it, come back Board. Somehow I’m sitting next to the tin foil hat wearers and their conspiracy theories. and they seem to have a leader although I think they all met just 45 minutes ago.
3:09 pm: the Board is still not back. Getting a massive headache sitting next to the tinfoil crew.
3:14 pm: Now the tinfoil hat folks want to start doing a chant. Aw hell naw, Rod ain’t kicking me out. He already told them this wasn’t church.
3:16 pm: John Eaves hasn’t made an appearance. But he sent his high paying lawyers from that fancy firm. Wonder if they are doing this pro-bono? Cuz I thought you spent money fighting your opponent and not just a regular citizen who wants to get on the ballot. Again, no one can every write the drama that is Fulton County elections.
3:23 pm: and still no Board. I feel like Anderson Cooper counting down the days of the Gulf Oil disaster. The old media folks are getting cranky and totally want to bolt this place.
3:27 pm: CBS Atlanta has left the building.
3:41 pm: Seriously it’s been 1 hour and still no vote and no Board. Only 3 of them get to vote. Man up a make a decision…any decision.
3:50 pm: They arrrrrrrrrreeeeeeee back!
3:52 pm: well we thought they were back. They all came back into the room and then Rod left out again. You could hear a pin drop in this room.
3:55 pm: and we wait some more….
3:58 pm: Rod is finally back in the room.
3:59 pm: Individual voting begins – issue by issue
1st. Accept the votes fact by fact – unaminous vote
2nd. Board finds no harm – unanimous vote
3rd. Board heard no evidence that Mary had justification for filing her notice late
– Riley says there was justification that Mary filed late because her campaign manager was incapacitated
– 3 to 1 vote
4th: Board lacks justification to change the constitution
– Riley says the Board doesn’t have the power to make constitutional changes. Says is no constitutionality. passed unanimous
5th: Board does not accept the Norwood candidacy
– Riley says Norwood’s lawyer gave them the legal framework to go forward and add her to the ballot and she should be allowed on the ballot. Passed 3 to 1.
Mary is not on the ballot!!!
Riley now wants the Board of Elections to accept and verify Mary’s signatures and accept the signatures that are on the pre-printed forms in case there is further litigation.
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