The Board of Elections voted unanimously to put Cosby’s name on the ballot during a specially called meeting Thursday afternoon, after officials said her petition had 6,012 valid signatures, just 30 more than the minimum of 5,982 required for her to gain access to the ballot.
Board of Elections member Cindy Castello thanked Elections Office Staff for their hard work, then read a prepared statement before the board discussed and voted on Cosby’s petition.
“I would like to also make it crystal clear that this board and staff have not and will not be intimidated by anyone, anyone who is spreading rumors and lies about our office. Mark my words, you have not intimidated any of us,” Castello said.
Last week, Cosby, former leader of the Canton T.E.A. Party, accused elections staff of treating her unfairly because they had not finished verifying all of her signatures two weeks after she submitted her petition.
Cosby did not attend the meeting Thursday.
Board of Elections Chairman Randy Gravley said the staff “promptly and expeditiously” reviewed the petition.
“While statements have been made that our office was not promptly and expeditiously reviewing Mrs. Cosby’s petition that is simply not true. This is baseless and it is a bold-faced lie,” Gravley said at the meeting
Gravley said Elections Office staff started working on Cosby’s petition July 8, the day she turned it in, and continued to work on it until 8:30 p.m. last night.
“This office is dedicated to this county and our electorate. They’ve spent time away from their family and kids on nights and on weekends, and I applaud them, and I’m sorry they had to be subject to these baseless accusations,” he said.
Kim Stancil, interim elections supervisor, explained at the meeting Thursday how the process to verify each individual signature takes time, with multiple steps required to find and verify a single signature.
Cosby submitted 7,722 signatures in her nomination petition, more than the 5,982 signatures she needed to have verified to be on the ballot. But, after official spent three weeks going through the signatures, 1,710 were disqualified for various reasons.
While 90 signatures did not appear to match those on file for voters, those names were counted as valid, Stancil said.
Elections staff attempted to contact those 90 people, and of the 18 signers the staff were able to contact, 17 of those confirmed their signatures on the petition. So, Stancil said, the category of signers was considered valid.
After Stancil recommended the petition for approval, Board of Elections member Donald Sams made the motion to accept Cosby’s petition, which was seconded by member Helmut Baxter.
Cosby will run against Ahrens in the November general election. Ahrens previously defeated challenger Jackie Archer in the May Republican primary election.
Sams, along with fellow Board of Elections member Frankie Shepard, thanked the Elections Office Staff for working hard, despite difficulties.
Stancil said most of the signatures that had to be thrown were invalid because of a violation of Georgia Code.
Each page of the petition must be signed by the circulator who gathered the signatures, and notarized by a notary public, Stancil explained.
“A person that acts as a notary public on a petition may not also sign the petition as a voter,” Stancil said. “If they do, the law provides that all pages of the petition notarized by that person must be disqualified.”
A total of 66 pages, containing 896 names, were disqualified because the pages were notarized by someone who also signed the petition.
The second most common reason for signatures being disqualified was because the signers were found to not be registered voters, Stancil said.
A total of 102 signers did not provide the required voter information, and those signatures were invalid, Stancil said.
Another reason signatures were disqualified was because they were duplicates, accounting for 64 invalid signatures, Stancil said. Seven names were not legible and were disqualified, and one signer said in writing they wanted to rescind their name from the petition.