Richard Lankford, the candidate for Fulton County Sheriff who narrowly failed to make a runoff election when the incumbent, Sheriff Ted Jackson, was ultimately declared to have garnered 50.05 percent of the July 31 primary vote, has sued to have the results nullified and a new vote called.
Attorney Mark Spix, who filed the complaint on Lankford’s behalf along with Morris & Shim partner Bruce Morris and Isenberg & Hewitt partner Melvin Hewitt Jr., said all of the Fulton County Superior Court judges have recused, and the case has been assigned to Cobb County Superior Court Judge James Bodiford.
In the complaint filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court, Lankford – whose final tally was reported at 32.46 percent of the vote –points to a half-dozen different outcomes Fulton County elections officials released over a seven-day period between July 31 and Aug. 6, during which Jackson’s totals swung from a low of 49.11 percent to a high of 50.09 percent.
As the votes were tallied following the five-way July 31 election, Jackson appeared to have barely eked out a victory: Under Georgia election law, 50 percent plus one voter is enough to avoid a runoff, but a challenger who comes within 1 percentage of making a runoff can request a recount, and Lankford did so.
On Aug. 8, Fulton County elections officials conducted a recount using an “accumulator” system, which relied on downloading the votes from all the individual machines in a precinct onto a “master card.” Those master cards are then downloaded and the votes tallied, along with hand-fed ballots absentee and paper ballots, according to the complaint.
The suit points to more than a dozen instances in which precincts reported more votes than registered voters, and another incident in which voters at one polling place reported that their votes for Lankford did not appear on the voting machine’s ballot summary.
The suit asserts that the accumulator system “is neither tamper-proof nor error-free,” said the complaint. “We believe that any secondary manual operation performed by poll workers, between the time final votes have been cast and Fulton County begins their Voting Tabulation Summaries, lends itself to manipulation, serious error and possibly fraud.”
It also says that Lankford was present during the recount, when “numerous” absentee and provisional paper ballots were repeatedly rejected by optical scanners, and had to be re-written by hand before the scanner would accept them.
The suits asks that all of the results from the July 31 primary be voided, and a new special election called prior to the November general election, and that the accumulator system not be used in the new election.
It also asks the court to order Fulton County to pay each candidate in the primary “the sum of $150,000 to compensate them for monies and time lost in a failed election, and monies and time spent for a new election.”
Fulton County Attorney David Ware referred a query to Parks, Chesin & Walbert partner Lee Parks, who represents the elections board. Parks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.