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Judge's ruling bars Bodkin from District 6 BOE race

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Marcela Bodkin is re-evaluating her legal options after State Senior Superior Court Judge Ben Miller dismissed her bid Tuesday to get on the Nov. 4, general election ballot as an independent candidate in the Clayton County Board of Education's District 6 race.

Miller's decision means there will be no rematch between Bodkin and school board member-elect Mary Baker, who defeated Bodkin with 91 percent of the votes cast in a Sept. 16 special election for the same seat. There is no Republican seeking the seat in November.

Miller, a Thomaston-based judge, who was filling in for Clayton County Superior Court Judge Gerona V. Carter, dismissed the case filed against Clayton County Board of Elections and Registration Chairman Bob Bolia on the basis that Bodkin waited more than the five days -- allowed under state law -- to appeal the Elections office's decision to reject her petition to get on the ballot.

It also was dismissed on the grounds that the sheriff's department served notice of the lawsuit to Board of Elections Director Annie Bright, not Bolia.

Unlike Republican and Democratic candidates, independents have to get more than 700 signatures on petitions to get on a ballot. Bodkin collected 1,800 signatures, but only 239 were certified.

What was heavily debated during the hearing was when Bodkin found out she did not have enough signatures to get on the ballot. According to Georgia Code 21-2-171(C), "The application for such writ of mandamus shall be made within five days of the time when the petitioner is notified of such decision." Bodkin filed her petition for a Writ of Mandamus on July 30.

Bodkin's attorney Robert Mack argued that Bodkin did not miss the filing deadline, because did not receive notice until July 25, when she filled out a certified mail card that came with her letter of rejection. "There's no other document that says otherwise," said Mack in his arguments.

Jack Hancock, the attorney for Bolia, however, argued that Bodkin knew as earlier as July 18 that she would not be on the ballot, because she penned a letter to Bright that day asking for an explanation of why the signatures on her petition had been rejected.

Bodkin and her attorney said they are evaluating their options.

If the courts had allowed the case to proceed, Bodkin said she would have challenged the standards set to get an independent candidate on a ballot.

"It is a matter of principle," she said. "If the judge had allowed us to proceed, we would have been able to show all of the discrepancies which exist."

Judge Miller decided there was documentation which showed Bodkin had waited more than five days to file her petition with the court, and he used that as the basis for dismissing the case.

"I find, based on what was in her petition for a writ of mandamus, she had actual notice of her rejection on July 18," said Miller. "She did not file her petition until July 30, and that falls outside the five days provided by the law."