Originally created 11/21/02

Walker contests loss in election



State Sen. Charles W. Walker is contesting the results of the Nov. 5 election in which he lost to political newcomer Randy Hall by 266 votes.

According to a lawsuit, Mr. Walker, D-Augusta, is contesting the general election results for the District 22 Senate seat on the grounds that some voters in District 22 and District 23 races were given ballots for the wrong districts, which he says could have affected the outcome of the election.

"The number of voters who were mistakenly given inappropriate ballots in these districts was sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the contested election," according to the suit filed in Richmond County Superior Court on Wednesday, minutes before the deadline for challenging the election results.

Mr. Walker has asked the court to declare the results "flawed, illegal and invalid, or uncertain and in doubt, and order a new election in its entirety."

Candidates have five days after election results have been certified by the secretary of state's office to contest election results. The Nov. 5 results were certified Friday, according to Richmond County Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey, who is named as a defendant in the suit along with Mr. Hall.

Mrs. Bailey said she did not know what the allegations in the suit meant.

A spokesman for Mr. Hall said the senator-elect was attending church Wednesday night and had not seen the lawsuit.

Although the case was filed in Richmond County Superior Court, election laws mandate that it be heard by a judge outside Augusta.

District 23 Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta, said Mr. Walker is desperate.

"I think drowning people grasp at all the straws they can get a hold of," he said.

Mr. Walker did not return a telephone message left at his residence Wednesday, and his Augusta and Atlanta attorneys apparently had left their offices for the day.

Unlike a recount, which asks for a "retallying of votes," the lawsuit takes issue with the election process, City Attorney Jim Wall said.

Mr. Wall said he had been informed of the lawsuit late Wednesday evening but had not seen a copy.

"Here they're contending that apparently there were errors in the process," he said. "He's not saying the votes were counted inaccurately, he's saying perhaps people were allowed to vote that should not have been allowed to vote."

A similar lawsuit was filed in south Georgia earlier Wednesday by defeated state Sen. Harold Ragan, D-Cairo. Mr. Ragan lost his District 11 seat to Republican John Bulloch by fewer than 100 votes in the Nov. 5 election.

His lawsuit says some voters in Thomas, Mitchell and Colquitt counties were assigned to the wrong voting district.

That both candidates filed their suits on the same day should come as no surprise, said Democratic analyst and former Walker spokesman John Kirincich.

He said Wednesday was the "logical day" to file a lawsuit because it was the last day action could be taken and candidates would want to "get their numbers straight."

"I knew that people had questions - that people were looking into various races - with the question 'Were voters mis-assigned to the wrong district?"' Mr. Kirincich said. "I think that's basically the same issue in both cases, and maybe in other places as well."

ABOUT THE LAWSUIT

State Sen. Charles Walker has filed a lawsuit contesting the outcome of the Senate District 22 race in the Nov. 5 election.

CLAIM: Some voters in the District 22 and District 23 races were given ballots for the wrong district - enough to call into question the outcome of the election.

REQUEST: Mr. Walker is asking the court to declare the election results invalid and to order another election for District 22.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Sylvia Cooper and Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 724-0851.