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Defeated candidates file election challenge

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Four local candidates, recently defeated in the July Democratic primary or the August runoff, have filed a formal complaint with the state, calling for an investigation of Clayton County Elections and Registration Director Annie Bright, and questioning the integrity of the elections.

Those filing the complaint are: former Georgia House District 78 candidate, Jackie Anderson-Woods; former District 1 Board of Commissioners candidate, Shegale Crute; former School Board District 1 candidate, Richard F. Jones, and former School Board District 9 candidate, James R. Searcy.

The announcement was made on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol Friday morning. The complaint was addressed to the State Ethics Commission, the Office of the Attorney General, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Georgia, as well as the Georgia Secretary of State.

On Friday, Georgia Secretary of State Spokesperson Matt Carrothers said the Secretary of State Inspector General's Office had received the complaint and is reviewing it to see if an investigation is warranted.

In the document, the former candidates asked for a full investigation of Bright and her office for actions that call into question "the fairness of the balloting and computation processes of the election." Also, a joint statement issued by Anderson-Woods, Crute, Jones, and Searcy, on Friday, accuses Bright of responding to the questions of certain candidates in an "unprofessional" and "threatening" manner.

"[There were] numerous instances of unprofessional behavior from the Director of Clayton County Board of Elections when some candidates approached her with questions," the released statement alleges. "Not only did she [Bright] fail to answer the questions, but her attitude was unkind (or threatening) and at least one of her responses was determined to be false," the statement reads.

"We therefore ask for a thorough investigation of Clayton County's Election administration, training, balloting process and a full examination of ballot computing processes and functionality of the voting machines."

Specific accusations listed in the complaint include:

* Some citizens not being able to find the candidate of their choice on their ballot.

* A lack of poll monitors at any of the polls during the elections.

* The refusal of some poll monitors to release poll counts to campaign workers.

* Concerns and issues submitted to Bright being "summarily dismissed" or "answered incorrectly."

* Bright having a "threatening and intimidating" tone to "any voter that might inquire about election procedures."

* Election officials "participating in campaigns for candidates on the ballot in Clayton County," therefore, possibly violating ethical rules.

* Some election officials leaving "well before" election-night counting was completed.

The complaint also calls into question the primary election victories of District 1 Commissioner Sonna Singleton and former Clayton County School Board Member and House District 76 Representative-elect Sandra G. Scott. Singleton and Scott won outright during the primary, with more than 50 percent of the vote, with Singleton facing four challengers and Scott facing two challengers.

The complaint reads: "Several of the races were won with very high margins of victory by candidates that made little to no public appearances and no evidence of conducting any fieldwork." The complaint continues, "Given the history of some candidates (i.e. removed from school board office by the Governor of the state), knowing the tenor of the county, this is unlikely ... A race with 5 candidates was won overwhelmingly without a runoff (50 percent and higher). The statistic [sic] probability of this happening is unlikely especially with an overwhelming dislike for the incumbent," the complaint states. "It is suspected that improprieties took place in the balloting process."

In the midst of the 2008 Clayton County accreditation crisis, Scott was one of four former school board members removed from office by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

During the primary, Anderson-Woods lost to Incumbent State Rep. Glenn Baker (D-Jonesboro), Crute lost to Incumbent District 1 Commissioner Singleton, and Jones lost to Incumbent School Board District 1 Member Pam Adamson. Searcy lost to Incumbent School Board District 9 Member Charlton L. Bivins, during the Aug. 10 runoff.

On Friday, Bright said she was unaware of the complaint and declined to comment. Scott was contacted Friday, but declined to respond, saying she needed to read the complaint. Later attempts to contact her were unsuccessful.

Singleton, who faced Crute during the primary, said, "The community spoke loud and clear on July 20," and that she welcomes any investigation into the integrity of the election. "I've lived in the community since 1996," she said. "People know me very well. I've been working in the county since before I was a commissioner. You just can't move into the district on the day you qualify, and think you are going to win an election. The people spoke, and they spoke real loud."