As Americans we all have supposedly enjoyed the right to vote and to run for political office since the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution on Feb. 3, 1870.
Although we know that in many Southern states including our beloved Georgia that rules were set in place to stop many of its citizens of color from participating in the process to elect our governing officials. One would think that after 151 years, that the obstacles that were put in place to limit voters from casting their votes or limiting who one can vote for would be over.
Moreover, that every man and woman regardless of color, religion or what have you could cast their vote for the candidate of their choice. That’s what is meant by a free and fair election.
Low and behold the goal post has moved again.
A candidate desired to run for office in the upcoming Valdosta city school board election, their application and qualifying fee were accepted in good faith only to be told 24 days after the candidate filed that they were disqualified.
What is more disheartening that the Board of Elections waited a full 52 days after the qualifying deadline to notify the candidate that they were no longer eligible to run for the office they desired.
Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.
A person gets their campaign in order, gathers volunteers to help, they buy yard signs and other campaign material, they begin to knock on doors and everything appears to be running smoothly. All of a sudden the candidate gets notified by election officials almost a full month after the candidate filed to run for office and almost two months after qualifying ended that they are disqualified to run for the office they are seeking.
The Georgia Law, officially known as the O.C.G.A or the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 21-2-133, does state that “No person elected on a write-in vote shall be eligible to hold office unless notice of his or her intention of candidacy was filed and published no earlier than Jan. 1 and no later than the Tuesday after the first Monday in September prior to the election for … municipal elections in the case of a general election.”
Now the first Tuesday after the first Monday in September was the 7th and according to state law no applications for write-in candidacy should have been accepted by election officials after this date.
In other words, if a person wanted to run for office as a write-in candidate, the election office had the responsibility to tell that person no, you are not eligible to run as a write-in candidate because the deadline has passed. The elections office never should have accepted the person’s qualifying fee nor their intent for office application
The election office failed in its duties to follow the law and by allowing a person to start a campaign under the pretense that they were in fact qualified to run for office.
What’s really bothersome is, if a person is not qualified on Oct. 19, 2021, then surely it was true that the potential candidate was not qualified as of Aug. 27, 2021, and most definitely on Sept. 14, 2021, the date he filed, according to the Board of Elections office.
Did the goal post move or did Lucy pull the ball away as Charlie Brown attempted to kick it again?
Either way the Elections Office has failed the people of Valdosta in the election process. So what happened, you might ask? Did somebody read the state law, was a phone call made either by or to the elections office. No matter what did or did not happen, it never should take 24 days to notify someone that they are not qualified for the office they were seeking.
It seems the more we encourage people to believe in the process and exercise your right to vote, the more the goal post keeps moving.
J.D. Rice is a former Valdosta Fire Department chief and a member of The Valdosta Daily Times editorial board.