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Eaves wins, Norwood loses in Fulton ballot access dispute
A judge today dealt a setback to Mary Norwood‘s quest to be elected chair of the Fulton County Commission.
Norwood is trying to qualify for the race as an independent, a step that requires she gather the signatures of 22,700 registered voters — 5 percent of the Fulton County electorate — by July 13.
Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter issued an order today saying he could not rule in a dispute over 3,000 or so of those signatures. Norwood’s attorney, Matt McGuire, said she probably will need those signatures to get on the ballot.
The voters in question signed petitions with the words “Fulton County” pre-printed on each line as part of their address. Norwood said county election officials told her that signatures collected that way would be valid.
Incumbent Commission Chairman John Eaves contends that election law requires that signatures cannot be counted unless each voter has written those words on the petition.
Election officials have not yet rejected the petitions. That means there is not yet an “actual controversy,” Baxter wrote in dismissing Norwood’s request to approve the practice used by the Norwood campaign.
“[T]o issue a declaratory judgment at this time would constitute an advisory opinion” with no legal force, Baxter wrote.
That leaves the decision up to the Fulton County Board of Elections. The Norwood camp must operate under the assumption that the signatures at issue might be rejected and it will have to collect that many more by July 13, campaign manager Anne Fauver said.
Counting those disputed signatures, Fauver said, Norwood has collected more than half the total needed to get on the November ballot.