By Joel Hall
It took a less than an hour for a Clayton County Superior Court judge to dismiss the case of Latoshia Gray against the City of Lovejoy, in which she contested the results of the Nov. 6, and Dec. 4 elections.
Gray lost to Tommy Green and Bob Lynch in the Nov. 6 election by only one vote. She claimed several voting discrepancies took place, including several improperly registered voters being allowed to vote, and a large number of voters turned away without being offered provisional ballots.
An official recount took place on Nov. 15, at the request of Gray, yielding the same results as the Nov. 6 election. The results of the Nov. 15 recount, however, were never certified, elections superintendent Avery Smith admitted on the witness stand.
Gray, who didn't file a petition to contest the election until Nov. 28, said she did so because she was waiting for the certification of the Nov. 15 recount. Senior Judge Ben Miller, however, sided with the city, dismissing her suit on the basis that she filed too late.
Judge Miller said the law requires Gray to file the petition within five days of the Nov. 6 election for the request to be considered.
Harlan Miller, the lawyer representing Gray, said the judge's ruling ignores the Georgia Code which governs contested elections. Miller said, according to the law, a candidate could contest election results "five days after the election is certified or five days after the recount is certified."
"The are specific steps that have to be taken for an election to be certified," said attorney Miller. "The judges ruling meant that she had to file an action before the recount was held ... they are simply claiming that they didn't have to certify the recount.
"They admitted on the stand that they did nothing after the recount was done," attorney Miller continued. "I feel that the ruling ignored the statute that covers these kinds of lawsuits. A very serious error occurred here."
City Attorney Keith Martin argued that all due diligence was taken during the Nov. 6 election, and claimed that Gray had filed her suit 15 days after it should have been submitted.
"We were in constant contact with the Secretary of State and the city, but we kept on getting the run-around from City Hall," said Gray. "The results of the recount have still not been certified."
Gray said "a Secretary of State investigator is looking into this," and suggested that she may take the matter to a higher court, depending on the official order of the judge.
As a result of the case being dismissed, Tommy Green -- who won against Lynch in a Dec. 4 runoff -- was confirmed as Post 1 Lovejoy City Councilman-elect.
Green had mixed feelings about the ruling, but was glad to have the hearing behind him. "There were some questions going into it ... but its hard to tell what could have happened," said Green. "I'm glad to be able to focus on what's ahead of me ... to begin to do what I was elected to do."