Disqualified Dallas mayor candidate Narda Konchel has asked the state’s highest court to order that votes for her be counted or the mayor’s election now under way be put on hold.
Konchel and her attorney, Mason Rountree, filed an emergency discretionary appeal Oct. 11 to the Georgia Supreme Court of a Paulding Superior Court ruling upholding her disqualification.
The request asked the justices to either temporarily halt the mayor’s election or place Konchel’s name back on the ballot pending the outcome of the appeal of Superior Court Senior Judge Grant Brantley’s Oct. 7 ruling upholding the Paulding election board’s Sept. 11 disqualification of her as a candidate in the city’s general election.
Advance voting in the Dallas election began Oct. 14. Election officials said Konchel’s name was placed on the ballot but votes for her would not be counted.
Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin had challenged Konchel’s assertion she met the city charter’s residency requirement for living in the city one full year before qualifying as a candidate Aug. 19.
After a hearing on Austin’s challenge, the elections board ruled Sept. 11 that Konchel had not proven she had lived in Dallas for the required time.
Konchel appealed the ruling to Paulding Superior Court and Brantley was appointed to hear the case after all Paulding judges recused themselves.
Brantley, a Cobb County senior judge, ruled Oct. 7 the elections board’s hearing was done lawfully and he would not alter its decision to disqualify Konchel.
Brantley wrote in his order that he affirmed the decision after the board did not make legal errors in its hearing.
According to state Supreme Court rules, justices will hear a discretionary appeal if “reversible error appears to exist” in the lower court judge’s ruling.
Rountree said he respected Brantley’s ruling but believed the elections board made a series of legal errors in its hearing.
Konchel’s appeal to the Supreme Court states Brantley erroneously upheld the board’s “contradictory” ruling that Konchel “was a qualified voter in the city of Dallas but not a qualified candidate under Georgia law.”
It also said the board erroneously used the criminal standard of proof that she was a city resident “beyond a doubt,” which more stringent than the standard of proof for “preponderance of the evidence” generally used in a civil case.
“Preponderance of the evidence” is defined as “greater than 50% chance that the claim is true,” according to the Cornell University School of Law.
“Given that the board applied the incorrect standard of proof in reviewing the evidence presented at the initial hearing, the order entered on Oct. 7, 2019, erroneously allowed the board’s use of an improper burden of proof, which constitutes a significant legal error and denied Konchel due process of law,” her appeal stated.
It asked the court to determine if Konchel met the city requirement for establishing residency based on “the correct standard of proof” because the elections board’s written ruling showed the board did not make “factual findings” during the hearing supported by evidence.
The appeal stated that elections board Chairwoman Peggy Wills voted to disqualify Konchel after Wills “specifically implied” during the hearing her vote was based on no building permit being filed for work to create Konchel’s residence in the city.
That is an “unconstitutional rationale for voting to disqualify Konchel by establishing a more stringent residency requirement than allowed by law,” the appeal stated.
It also said past attorney general opinions have said a city law requiring residency one year before “qualifying” for office cannot be more stringent or conflict with a state law requiring a candidate to be a registered voter and a one-year resident before “election” to office, her appeal stated.
She also asked the court to shorten the time it will allow the Paulding County Board of Elections to answer Konchel’s appeal, if granted, to no more than three days.
Brandon Bowen, attorney for the election board, said the board was to file its answer to Konchel’s request last week.