110619_PNN_Dallas_Election_Appeal

The Paulding County Election Board voted to disqualify Dallas mayoral candidate Narda Konchel on Sept. 11 after saying it could not prove she had been a city resident for the required time.

The only challenger to Dallas’ longtime mayor in the November election is no longer a candidate.

The Paulding County Board of Elections and Registration Wednesday, Sept. 11, voted to disqualify Narda Konchel as a candidate for Dallas mayor because board members could determine if she lived in the city for the required one year before she qualified on Aug. 19, 2019.

Mayor Boyd Austin, who is seeking re-election in the Nov. 5 election, asked the board to disqualify the Dallas businesswoman based on requirements she reside and be eligible to vote in the city for one year before her Aug. 19, 2019, qualifying date.

Paulding County Elections Supervisor Deidre Holden said board members looked at evidence and heard testimony from the candidates and others during the hearing.

“The board decided they didn’t have enough evidence to prove that she was a legal resident so they upheld the challenge of Mayor Austin,” Holden said. “They said that they did not have enough evidence to support that she lived there.”

Konchel’s voter registration date of Aug. 29, 2018 “was the only firm date that anybody could establish as far as voter registration or residency,” Austin said.

“The charter is very specific in its requirement and doesn’t allow any leeway,” he said.

Holden, who is not an election board member, said the group’s vote was unanimous.

Austin was challenging Konchel’s claim she had been a city resident for the required time period because she lived in part of a refurbished building at 223 Main St. where she also operates a real estate company.

Holden said Konchel said she had a lease to reside there more than the required time. She said the lease began Aug. 1, 2018, and she had even lived there before that date, Holden said.

However, Austin said no one had filed building permits or certificates of occupancy to show work was done to convert part of the commercial building to a residence — which city law allows but requires a permit to do so.

In addition, part of Austin’s challenge was Konchel had not met a city charter requirement to be a “registered” voter in Dallas one year before qualifying.

Her registration was effective Aug. 29, 2018, which was 10 days before the required date. However, the election board learned the Dallas city charter stated she must have been a “qualified” voter for one year, which is more vague than a specific registration date, Holden said.

Konchel must file any appeals to the board’s decision in Paulding Superior Court by Sept. 21, Holden said.

Konchel did not immediately reply to a reporter’s phone call or email for comment on the hearing or the board’s vote or if she plans to appeal.

Austin, who is seeking a seventh term, said he was “very pleased” with the board’s vote.

“I told them when I presented my challenge to them (Wednesday, Sept. 11) that this wasn’t a political stunt or shenanigan,” Austin said. “It was to uphold the letter of the law and she had failed to do so in her candidacy.”

“They looked at the evidence and did the right thing,” he said.

Dallas City Council candidate Brian Hardin said voters deserved a choice of candidates for the city’s highest elected office.

“It is very unfortunate that the citizens of Dallas will not have a choice … again,” Hardin said.

Austin will be unopposed this year for the second consecutive election and has not faced a challenger since 2011.

Holden said Austin filed the challenge Sept. 3 with the county elections board rather than the city of Dallas where city candidates qualified.

The city contracted with the county elections board to conduct its election and the contract requires the board to hear any candidacy challenges, Holden said.

In an earlier version of this article, Brian Hardin was incorrectly identified as attending the election board meeting.

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