Election Commission Attorney Chris Clem on Tuesday rapped City Councilman Peter Murphy for holding a press conference "threatening a lawsuit" in connection with the tight District 9 race. Later Tuesday, Councilman Murpny said he plans to file a suit seeking a runoff.
Councilman Murphy on Monday afternoon told reporters at Miller Plaza he was asking that election officials confirm by 5 p.m. Tuesday that they will hold a runoff between himself and former City Councilman Yusuf Hakeem "in keeping with your duty under the charter and law.
Mr. Hakeem got six more votes than the incumbent in the March 5 election and he was certified by the Election Commission as the winner. Mr. Hakeem got 49.8 percent of the vote when seven write-in ballots were counted. A majority on the council discounted two write-in votes that had no name on them, pushing Mr. Hakeem above the 50 percent mark.
Councilman Murphy said it is "not in the best interest" of citizens that a lawsuit be filed. But he said some of his constituents are urging him to contest the Election Commission decision.
He said he had sent a letter to the Election Commission staff, saying that the official certification of the election includes the seven write-in votes. He said, "The certification was done correctly under the law and clearly provides that neither candidate received a majority of votes cast in this election.
"Therefore, pursuant to the city charter, a runoff election is required."
Asked why he wants to continue on the council, he said, "Good work is being done in the district that was not being done." He said it was important that he continue moreso for the people of the district rather than himself.
Attorney Clem said in his letter:
I understand from media reports and a letter you dropped off at the election commission that you are asking the Election Commission to reconsider its action on March 13, 2013. Please note that the Election Commission will not be meeting again until April 9, 2013. Accordingly, it is not possible to reconsider its actions if they do not meet.
When the Election Commission met on March 13, 2013, they fully expected a lawsuit to be filed no matter which way they voted. I specifically told your attorney, Stuart James, that I would accept service of process and would agree to an expedited hearing.
Accordingly, both my client and I are a bit perplexed at your threats of filing a lawsuit nearly one week later. We expect you to file a lawsuit. We did not expect you to hold press conferences one week later and threaten to file a lawsuit if we didn’t change our mind.
Attached please find the Audit Report of the election results. I have also included the certification report which attaches the computer printout of the SOVC report. “SOVC” stands for Statement of Votes Cast. Our computers system data base is run by GEMS which stands for Global Election Management System. We explained during the Election Commission Meeting (minutes will not be approved until April 9th) that the SOVC report does list the write-in votes. It is not possible for the computer system to be manipulated to remove votes – even write in votes. That is a necessary safe guard that makes it impossible to manipulate voting data. If we could remove write-in votes then we could also remove Lookout Mountain votes or Peter Murphy votes. The audit report does not include the write-in votes. We also explained at the Election Commission meeting on March 13th that the Election Commission would not consider the 2 votes with no write in name as valid votes cast even though they were listed on the SOVC report.
The “complete accounting” as reported on the SOVC report that we reported to the state does not change the vote taken by the local election commission not to consider the 2 votes. Furthermore, the State Election Attorney, Beth Henry-Roberson agrees with the vote taken by the Election Commission.
I admit this is not a clear cut case. But, there is only one remedy at this point. You either need to accept the Election Commission’s decision or you need to appeal to a Court (federal or state). Holding press conferences and demanding the election commission to reconsider is not a valid option for you.