Heard ballot trial wraps up in court - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Heard ballot trial wraps up in court

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Updated:

Closing arguments in the trial of a lawsuit against the Dougherty County board of elections will  not be presented in court, but will be written and sent in to the judge. 

Tuesday, day two of the hearing, both Maurice King and Henry Williams who represent Lorenzo Heard and Ed Collier, the board of elections attorney rested.

Heard is suing the board of elections for refusing to put his name on the upcoming November ballot for the at-large school board seat.

Heard's attorneys say the election process is flawed and the petition signatures Heard turned in weren't counted appropriately.  Tuesday, King and Williams called five women to the stand, all who helped verify the petition signatures in the elections office.  They questioned their training and education, trying to show holes in the process.

"I think we learned a lot about a lot of the dysfunction in the elections office. I think we saw even more that there's no structure, no real order," said Heard.

Heard turned in more than 3,258 signatures. Only 1,897 were verified. He needed 2,632 to qualify.

The board of elections attorney says many of the petitions and the notice of candidacy weren't original documents.

Collier began presenting his case late Tuesday afternoon and called Clinton Johnson, the agent for Heard, to the stand first.  Johnson was the one who took the notice of candidacy document to the elections office, which was questioned by a worker in the office.  Johnson ended up taking the document back and shredding it out of frustration. 

Johnson testified saying that he received the notice of candidacy in an e-mail from Heard and got the document notarized without Heard's presence.   Johnson was also named on the affidavit for more than 1,700 petition signatures.  The timing of when he got all of these signatures also raised questions in court. 

"I think it shows that the affidavits were mass produced and attached petitions either with his knowledge or without. And in fact those affidavits were false," said Collier. 

Collier called Ginger Nickerson, the supervisor of elections as his second and last witness.  He called her to the stand to clear up some questions about the process.

Judge Richard Porter out of Grady County has given both sides until October 19th to submit their written closing arguments.

Heard is still qualified as a write in candidate for the at large seat.  If the judge rules in his favor he could delay that election.  Lane Price is the only name currently on the ballot for that seat.

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Testimony in day two of the Lorenzo Heard hearing is still going on. Heard, an Albany minister filed a lawsuit against the board of elections after they ruled he didn't qualify to get his name on the November ballot as an independent for a Dougherty County School board race.

Tuesday the focus of the hearing turned to the thousands of petition signatures Heard turned in, in order to qualify. But the board of elections ruled not enough were verified.

Ginger Nickerson, the supervisor of elections walked into the courthouse Tuesday, covering up her face. Nickerson and the entire elections office have been under scrutiny during this hearing.

Tuesday, Heard's attorneys, Maurice King and Henry Williams called on several women who helped sort through the petition signatures to determine if they could be verified.

The two questioned the witnesses education and training, in addition to the verification process, trying to uncover errors in the system.

"The process is flawed," said Williams. "It's been flawed for years, it's been flawed ever since Caroline Hatcher was in this office. It's time that it be exposed and it's time that it be straightened out and somebody got to do it. And it might as well be Reverend Lorenzo Heard."

Board of elections attorney, Ed Collier cross examined Cathy Crowdis who helped verify signatures. She says everyone involved went above and beyond to verify signatures and researched some of the signatures if they couldn't read the name.

The elections office verified 1,897 signatures. Heard turned in 3,258. But he need more than 2,000 verified signatures to qualify.

Monday Nickerson admitted that Heard's notice of candidacy document should have been admitted.

Heard's attorneys have been cross examining witnesses first. The board of elections has not presented their side yet.

On Monday,  Heard's attorneys said elections officials improperly rejected his initial notice of candidacy and filing fee, and miscalculated the number of signatures he needed.

But Ed Collier, the attorney for the board of elections says they are just upholding Georgia law and that the petition signatures did not comply with the law for a number of reasons.

Heard says he was also told the wrong number of petition signatures he needed to qualify.  A group in the elections office verified 1,672 signatures, but stopped after they realized they wouldn't reach the required amount. 

Dougherty County elections supervisor Ginger Nickerson testified that they originally were using the wrong number, but went through the rest of the petitions and verified a total of 1,897 signatures.

 

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