Originally created 11/05/06

Residency issues hit elections



ATLANTA - Rep. Nan Orrock is a lock to win a Georgia Senate seat on Tuesday, but the Atlanta Democrat said she is still fielding questions from voters who didn't notice her opponent had dropped out of the race when his district residency was challenged.

"In every election cycle it happens," she said.

This year, with all 180 House and 56 Senate seats up for election, the secretary of state's office handled five official residency challenges in the legislative races. One of those filings eventually was withdrawn, according to the office.

Perhaps the most dramatic residency case came last week in Savannah, with the disqualification of former lawmaker Mell Traylor, a Democratic challenger to Republican Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson.

Mr. Traylor's case, which went through an administrative law hearing, offered the basic argument for residency questions: Is home really where you lay your head at night, or can it be defined in other ways?

For Mr. Traylor, simply listing his cousin's Georgia house as a primary residence was not enough to convince state elections officials, particularly because Mr. Traylor reportedly spent most of his time at a South Carolina address, drove a car with a South Carolina license plate and held interests in South Carolina businesses.

It's not just legislative candidates who have run into trouble with their home addresses.

Augusta elections officials had a couple of residency headaches this year.

The county elections board disqualified Keith Brown, who was temporarily appointed to the city commission when a member stepped down to run for the Legislature.

He won't appear on Tuesday's ballots because the board found evidence that he had not lived in Augusta long enough and had recently been registered to vote in South Carolina.

In another challenge, the elections board allowed Augusta mayoral candidate Ronnie Few to remain in the race even though he had previously applied for and received a homestead exemption in neighboring Columbia County.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 681-1701 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.