The Lowndes County Election Office should have told Nick Harden he did not qualify to run for the Valdosta Board of Education election as a write-in candidate because he did not meet the deadline.

And, they should have told him on the very day he dropped off his paperwork. 

Harden likely would have been disappointed, mostly in himself, and walked away regretting he had not done more research and met the deadline.

But that’s not what happened. 

Because he had every reason to believe his write-in candidacy was valid, Harden began campaigning in earnest. 

The mistake by the elections office has been costly. 

It has resulted in a lot of animosity and ill feelings.

It has cost Harden and supporters who have donated to his campaign in real dollars. 

We have been told Harden spent thousands of dollars out of his own pocket and received generous donations from supporters. 

That money was spent in good faith, thinking all was in order with the elections office. 

If Harden had been candidly told upfront, on the day he dropped off his paperwork, that any votes for him would not be counted, he would not have spent a single red penny campaigning. 

So, how is he now going to be reimbursed for the money he spent as a result of the error of the elections office? 

Where was the breakdown by elections officials?

Why was the mistake realized after all this time? 

The mere suggestion that it was a random checking that uncovered the error rings hollow. 

Any and all emails, texts or other correspondence to or from any person in the elections office related to the Harden write-in candidacy are open public records that must be retained and must be disclosed, if requested. 

Record retention laws exist to protect the public’s right to know. 

Harden has every right to know. 

The public deserves some answers, and Harden — at the very least — deserves an apology. 

While the election commission did listen to the public and gave people plenty of time to air their grievances, which was the right thing to do, there were still no answers. 

Giving people time to speak is not the same thing as listening to what they are saying. 

And listening is not the same as answering. 

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