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From today’s Sentinel:

Election suit dismissed
Judge says lawsuit not filed in time
By Winston Jones
Staff Writer
A Gwinnett County judge Monday dismissed a challenge by two unsuccessful Douglas County election candidates to have their Nov. 4 election results invalidated.

Judge Michael C. Clark, sitting in the Douglas County Superior Court case, ruled in favor of the county to dismiss the contestants’ suit because it was not filed within five days of the results being certified by county election officials, as required by state law.

The county certified the election results on Nov. 7, and the Secretary of State’s office received the certification letter on Sept. 9, according to documents presented by the county to the court. The contestants’ lawsuit was filed on Nov. 17.

Contestants James Quarterman, who ran for county commission chairman, and Derrick T. Broughton, who sought the sheriff’s position, indicated after the judge’s decision that they would appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court. The judge indicated he would sign the dismissal order on Friday, and the contestants have 10 days to file their appeals after the signing.

Broughton was represented by attorney Joan Davis, while Quarterman represented himself.

The county was represented by attorneys Ben Mathis and David Cole.

The defendants challenged the certification date because the county later changed the election results.

“If you come back and correct something you certified, then you have to recertify,” Davis argued. This would have put the suit within the five-day period.

Mathis opened the 9 a.m. hearing for the county with a motion to dismiss. In addition to the five-day filing period, he also cited a ruling by Superior Court Judge David Emerson that, according to Mathis, said Quarterman could not file any lawsuits without the judge’s permission because he owes outstanding court fees from previous cases.

Mathis also claimed the contestants didn’t properly serve notices to the defendants named in the suit — Election Supervisor Laurie Fulton, Commission Chairman Tom Worthan and Sheriff Phil Miller. Fulton was present for Monday’s hearing, but Worthan and Miller were not.

In his ruling, Clark said he wasn’t going to address the matters of notice service or contempt of Judge Emerson’s ruling on case filing.

“I’m concerned with the timeliness of the petition,” the judge said.

Clark expressed concern about whether documents presented by the county were the actual ones filed with the Secretary of State’s office. This concern resulted from conflicting documents shown by Quarterman, who said he’s received them from the Secretary of State.

“I haven’t seen what you filed with the Secretary of State,” Clark told Mathis. “You have a motion before the court and you have the burden of proof on that motion.” The judge said that so far, he hadn’t seen that proof. He gave the county until 2 p.m. to obtain certified copies of the election certification from the Secretary of State’s office.

These documents were presented by the county after court reconvened shortly after 2 p.m.

The Quarterman-Broughton suit is seeking to void the Nov. 4 election results of the commission chairman and sheriff races won by incumbents Worthan and Miller.

Worthan received 27,657 votes, or 52.8 percent, while Quarterman received 24,737 votes, or 47.2 percent, according to election results posted on the Georgia Secretary of State’s Web site.

Miller had 29,565 votes, or 55.3 percent, and Broughton received 23,825, or 44.6 percent, according to the secretary of state.

The suit charges, among several allegations, that the election superintendent abandoned the chain of custody on some voting machines, that voting booths didn’t meet state requirements and that candidate Broughton’s name was incorrectly listed on the ballot as “Derrick Broughton,” while he qualified under the name “Derrick T. Broughton.”

The suit also challenges the reliability of the Diebold voting machines and vote counting procedures used by county election officials.

The contestants are seeking a jury trail.

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