By John Schaffner

Mary Norwood, an independent candidate for chairman of the Fulton County Commission, alleges in a lawsuit filed June 21that incumbent Chairman John Eaves is attempting to block her from the ballot for the Nov. 2 election by disputing signatures she has secured in order to qualify her candidacy.

Running as an independent candidate, Norwood must obtain signatures from 5 percent of Fulton County’s registered voters – a total of 22,700 signatures – on petitions asking she be placed on the ballot.

Norwood’s campaign says that in May it obtained written approval from the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections to pre-type in the word “Fulton” in the space provided for a signer’s county of residence.

But a law firm representing Eaves’ campaign claims that each signer must write the word “Fulton,” along with his or her address, on the form. This interpretation would void thousands of signatures already obtained by Norwood and her supporters. Norwood said her campaign has already collected “right at half” of the number of signatures required.

In order to make certain that all of the signatures count toward winning a spot on the November ballot, Norwood is seeking an emergency ruling from the Fulton County Superior Court validating the signatures she already has obtained.

Norwood held a press conference at her headquarters in The Peach shopping center, 2900 Peachtree Road, June 22 to make public the challenge to her collected signatures and her counter challenge to the action by Eaves’ election committee.

Representing the Committee to Elect John Eaves, attorneys George W. (“Buddy”) Darden and Jeremy Berry issued a statement June 22 concerning the lawsuit filed by Norwood: “We have received and are reviewing the lawsuit that Mary Norwood filed yesterday. The Elections Code clearly requires that an elector fill out his own information on a nomination petition, including his or her name, signature, residence address, and county of residence. The law is the law, and all candidates for office are equally obligated to follow it.”

The statement continued: “As soon as the Committee to Elect John Eaves became aware that the Norwood campaign was acting on information that we believe was clearly contrary to Georgia law, we brought this issue to the attention of the Fulton County Department of Registration and Elections. Because Mary Norwood has elected to file a lawsuit, this matter is in the hands of our judicial system.”

“I am more than surprised that our Fulton County chairman would bring in big legal guns to challenge a petition form. This is a Fulton County form for a Fulton County election, approved by Fulton County’s Department of Registration and Elections,” Norwood said. “We believe that every single signature that we have gotten on our petition forms should count. To tell registered voters that their voice does not matter goes against our basic rights as Americans.”

During her press conference, Norwood also announced her campaign had hired a national firm that is in the business of collecting petition signatures to assist in obtaining the required 22,700 signatures by the July 13 deadline.