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Ware recall would need black support

By Justin Reedy

If controversial Clayton County school board Chairwoman Nedra Ware is going to be recalled, the numbers suggest that it would have to be done by African Americans in her district.

Ware and other Board of Education members have been asked to resign by members of the community and the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce due to the controversy surrounding the board since its ouster of Superintendent Dan Colwell this year.

Ware represents District 2 on the Board and faced no opposition in the 2000 election. Her district, which includes portions of Jonesboro and Riverdale, is about 66 percent black and 4 percent Hispanic, according to data from the state Reapportionment Office.

Her colleague, District 9 representative Connie Kitchens, may face tougher opposition in a recall effort after fighting off Democratic challenger Rick Maddox in last summer's primary election, 1,661 votes to 1,043. Kitchens' district is majority white, with about 42 percent black population and 5 percent Latino.

State law allows for the recall of any elected public official, but requires several conditions. Grounds for recall include the official acting in a manner that adversely affects both the administration of that official's office and the rights and interests of the public.

In addition, the official must have committed an act of malfeasance in office, violated the oath of office, committed an act of misconduct in office, failed to perform the duties prescribed by law, or have willfully misused or misappropriated public funds or property entrusted to their office.

State law also outlines a process for organizing a recall vote, which includes a two-step petition process. First, residents must apply with the county elections superintendent, which is currently Probate Court Judge Eugene Lawson, to circulate a recall petition. That application must include the signatures of 100 sponsors who live and are registered to vote within the district up for recall.

Within four business days of the application, the official potentially up for recall can request that a superior court judge review the grounds for recall to determine the validity of the charges.

If the signatures are verified by the county voting registrar and the court rules the petition may move forward, the sponsors of the petition then have a specific period of time to get the required number of signatures. For officials representing districts, a petition requires a number of signatures equal to or greater than 30 percent of the voters registered in that district in its last election.

For example, in District 7, a recall petition centered on Carol Kellam would require at least 2,792 signatures, since that district had 9,305 registered voters in its last election. Georgia law allows people who registered to vote after a recall petition is issued to both sign the petition and vote in the recall election.

The following is a summary of each school board district's political and ethnic makeup, as well as the number of signatures required for a recall petition of that district's board representative:

District 1

LaToya Walker was elected last fall to represent District 1 on the school board, defeating incumbent Susan Wilson-Tucker by a total of 2,373 votes to 1,715 in the Democratic primary. Walker rolled to victory in the general election over Republican Maggy Martinez, 5,361 votes to Martinez' 3,689.

District 1 includes Jonesboro, Lovejoy and Hampton precincts. Its ethnic makeup is about 52 percent white, 44 percent black and less than 4 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to the 2000 Census. With 21,176 registered voters at the time of last fall's election in District 1, a recall petition would require 6,353 signatures.

District 2

Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware represents District 2, having faced no opposition in either the primary or general elections in 2000. District 2 includes Jonesboro and Riverdale precincts, and has a majority black population. About 66 percent of the district's residents are black, while about 4 percent are Hispanic. District 2 had 13,762 registered voters at the time of the 2000 election, so a recall petition for Ware would require 4,129 voters.

District 3

Like Ware, Linda Crummy was unopposed in the 2000 primary and general elections. Her district includes Riverdale and College Park precincts, and has a majority black population. About 76 percent of the district's population is black, while about 5 percent is Latino. With 14,017 voters registered in that district in 2000, a recall petition for Crummy would require 4,205 signatures.

District 4

Ericka Davis was elected to represent District 4 in a non-partisan special election held in 2000 to fill a vacant school board seat. Davis beat Antonia Parks in that election, 2,128 votes to 1,224. She won re-election in 2002 by defeating fellow Democrat Dennis Yarbrough, 783 votes to 350, in the primary.

District 4 includes College Park, Forest Park, and Riverdale precincts, and is majority black. About two-thirds of the district's population is black, while about 13 percent of its residents are Hispanic n the highest among the school board districts. A recall petition centering on Davis would require 2,533 signatures, since there were only 8,444 voters registered in the last election.

District 5

Barbara Wells was unopposed in the 2000 general election to represent District 5, but only advanced to that level after her Democratic primary opponent, Norreese Haynes, was disqualified from the election. Haynes secured 528 votes to Wells' 371 in the primary, but was disqualified after he was found to live outside District 5.

District 5 includes Jonesboro and Riverdale precincts, and is made up of about 60 percent ethnic minorities. About 50 percent of the district's population is black, while 9 percent is Hispanic.

There were 10,083 registered voters in this district in 2000, meaning that if Wells were to be recalled, such a petition would require signatures from 3,025 voters.

District 6

Bob Livingston was unopposed in the 2000 Democratic primary and advanced to the general election, where he defeated Republican candidate Bob Boyer, 4,668 votes to 3,378.

District 6 includes Ellenwood, Morrow, Lake City and Conley precincts, and is mostly white. The district has about 34 percent black residents and 7 percent Latino residents. With 14,830 voters registered in the district for the 2000 election, a recall petition for Livingston would require 4,449 signatures.

District 7

Carol Kellam was appointed to represent District 7 on the school board when Mark Armstrong resigned his position last December. District 7 includes Lake City, Forest Park, Morrow and Riverdale precincts, and has about 55 percent ethnic minorities as its population. The district's black population only makes up about 44 percent of its total, but more than 11 percent of district residents are Hispanic.

A recall petition centered on Kellam would require 2,792 signatures, since there were 9,305 registered voters in the district in 2000.

District 8

Former board member Susan Ryan resigned in March, leaving this district seat vacant. The spot will be filled in a special election scheduled for September. Ryan narrowly defeated incumbent David Halcome in the 2002 Democratic primary, 640 votes to 635.

District 8 consists of Morrow, Lake City and Ellenwood precincts, and includes parts of unincorporated Conley. The district has about 49 percent black population and more than 9 percent Hispanic population. No recall petition can be circulated now for District 8, since the seat is vacant.

District 9

Connie Kitchens sustained a challenge from fellow Democrat Rick Maddox in the 2002 primary election to retain her District 9 board seat. Kitchens secured 1,661 votes to Maddox's 1,043 in that election.

District 9 is made up of Morrow and Jonesboro precincts, and includes parts of unincorporated Rex. Its population is majority white n about 42 percent of the district's residents are black, and an additional 5 percent are Latino. A recall petition for Kitchens would require the signatures of 4,281 voters, since there were 14,270 registered in District 9 last year.