Henry Ficklin’s legal team will get a little more time to prepare before bringing his election challenge back to court.
At a hearing Tuesday, Senior Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Boswell granted Ficklin’s request for a continuance and set a tentative date of Nov. 26 for an evidentiary hearing.
Ficklin’s attorney, Wayne B. Kendall, argued that they need more time to obtain and review records they’ve requested from the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections and the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.
“We expect that we’re going to need to see registration records from the local board of elections, as well as absentee ballots,” he said.
In his lawsuit filed last week, Ficklin maintained that the election for the Macon-Bibb Commission District 2 seat -- which he lost to Larry Schlesinger by 26 votes -- was marred by “misconduct, fraud, or irregularity.”
He said some voters received absentee ballots that did not list him as a candidate.
Speaking after the hearing, one of the attorneys for the board of elections denied Ficklin’s allegations.
“We have confidence that the process was fair and that it went as planned, and that there were no irregularities,” attorney William H. Noland said.
During the hearing, Kendall alleged that state or local elections officials have altered records since Ficklin filed his suit.
“The things that were on the secretary of state’s website, for example, in terms of what precincts people were in, … have now, as of today, been changed,” he said.
Boswell asked the board of elections to preserve a “snapshot” of records before making any further changes, though he acknowledged that election workers may have legitimate reasons to alter records, such as purging voter rolls.
“I’m not going to tell them to stop doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.
Kendell said he received no response to the records requests he filed with both the state and the local board of elections. Noland denied that contention, saying he replied immediately, and that “the people at the elections office worked all weekend to get (the documents) ready.”
Attorneys involved in the suit agreed to go to the elections office immediately after the hearing to exchange documents. Bibb County Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson estimated that she had prepared “three or four thousand” pages to satisfy the request from Ficklin’s attorneys.
Both legal teams and the judge expressed a desire to advance the case quickly so that it can be resolved before the holiday season.
“I’m going to ask both of you to step on the gas as far as discovery goes,” Boswell said.
Ficklin’s legal team declined to comment after the hearing, as did Ficklin himself.
Schlesinger was present in court with an attorney, but he did not speak during the hearing or after.