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Forest Park candidate challenges vote count

Forest Park resident, Lydia Murphy, realized too late that she cast her ballot Friday in the wrong ward.

While she is willing to accept part of the blame, Murphy said the city bears some responsibility to make sure the right ballot is given out.

"I voted early because my husband and I were going out of town," she said. "When I went into City Hall, they told me that Mr. Judson had just passed away and his name would not be on the ballot for Ward 4. The clerk checked my ID and gave me a ballot."

Murphy said she didn't see Judson's name on the ballot, which she expected, but she didn't see the candidate she intended to vote for either.

"I live on Ash Street, which I know has at least two wards, so I thought maybe I was in Ward 5 instead," she said. "I thought maybe I was confused. I should have questioned it then. I voted for the man in that race because I recognized him from a sign in someone's yard."

When Murphy's husband voted later that day, she said he was given a ballot for Ward 4.

"I don't see how two people living in the same house can be in Ward 4 and Ward 5," she said.

The candidate Murphy supported, Lillian Holloway, has asked for a second recount in Tuesday's election because of this and other alleged irregularities. Forest Park Elections Superintendent Dave Painter said the initial count of votes cast against Sunday alcohol sales was wrong, due to "human error." Painter performed a recount Wednesday morning, which completely flip-flopped the results.

Holloway lost to Latresa S. Akins, 28, but Holloway wants to be sure the final tally is right.

"I feel like something just smells wrong," she said. "I am not trying to accuse anyone of voter fraud. I am not upset for me, I am upset for the people of Forest Park. If you don't feel like you can vote fairly, you've got a huge problem."

While the voting machines themselves operated fine Tuesday, Painter said the machine used to tally the votes was broken. Officials used a calculator to add absentee and early ballots to votes cast Tuesday. The first count on the referendum showed it failed to pass. Wednesday's recount showed it passed 368-331.

"There was no change in the outcome of the candidates' races," he said.

Painter said he is aware of the problem Murphy and another Holloway supported experienced, but there is no way to correct their mistakes.

"We've researched the issues and there is not anything we can do about it right now," he said. "We apologize for the inconvenience, but the voter has the ultimate responsibility to make sure everything is correct before they cast that ballot."

Painter said Tuesday's results have been certified and supporting documents have been sent to the Georgia Secretary of State's Office and the clerk of Clayton County Superior Court.

Murphy said she hopes the city will re-evaluate the way ballots are handled.

"Disenfranchisement on my part or anyone's part, you just can't have in this democracy," she said. "I hope the processes are looked at, and maybe extra training for clerks. I trusted them."