Court rules in Powell's favor

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled today that Democratic Public Service Commission candidate Jim Powell will remain on the ballot, despite Secretary of State Karen Handel’s repeated attempts to remove him.

Justices ruled Handel improperly singled out a property tax exemption Powell had outside the 4th District to disqualify him as a candidate before the July primary. Handel determined that exemption made the out-of-district home his primary residence.

But state election law provides 14 other rules to determine a candidate’s residency status, seven of which Powell meets.

“We agree with the superior court that the Secretary committed an error of law that authorizes reversal of the Secretary’s decision,” the opinion, written by Justice Robert Benham, says.

In deciding to disqualify Powell, Handel reversed an administrative law judge’s advisory opinion that Powell proved residency in the district. Powell prevailed in an appeal of Handel’s decision in Fulton County Superior Court, and Handel appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Powell accuses Handel, a Republican, of allowing partisan politics to guide her decision, a charge Handel denies.

The ruling comes as nearly 1.6 million early ballots have been cast, and prevents a special election that would have been necessary if Powell had been booted from the ballot.

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