DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester is calling for a new vote on the city of LaVista Hills after state officials launched an investigation into the Nov. 3 election on whether to create the proposed new city.

“Voters in DeKalb deserve to have confidence that elections are conducting with integrity and security,” Jester said in a prepared statement on Nov. 6. “Due to the nature of the allegations, the fact that DeKalb election officials have themselves reported this matter, and furthermore that this employee has been placed on leave, I believe that the citizens should be allowed to vote again on this measure.

County elections officials reported approval of LaVista Hills fell 136 votes short on Nov. 3. DeKalb election officials said 6,925 voters said no, while 6,789 said yes. Voters in the areas to be incorporated were the only ones who cast ballots in the election.

WSB-TV Channel 2 reported Nov. 5 that Leonard Piazza, second in command at DeKalb County’s office of voter registration and elections, claimed serious irregularities regarding the LaVista Hills vote.

Piazza said voters were turned away at their polling place and voter material wasn’t properly secured, Channel 2 reported. He also  told Channel 2 that a memory card used to collect citizen votes was loose in the office.

But county elections officials said the election would stand scrutiny.

“The DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections’ sole purpose is to ensure the integrity of all elections in accordance with Georgia election code,” the board said in a statement released by the county on Nov. 6. “We recognize the seriousness of the allegations made and are cooperating fully with the Secretary of State’s office as they investigate the claims made.  We remain convinced that once the investigation is complete, the veracity of the November 2015 elections will be confirmed.  Until the Secretary of State completes his investigation we have no further comment on this issue.”

Jester called for a new vote on Nov. 6 after news reports said a DeKalb election official reported irregularities with the LaVista Hills vote.

“I have seen video of the GBI removing voting equipment from the DeKalb County Elections HQ,” Jester said in a prepared statement emailed Nov. 6. “I am also aware that it has been reported that Leonard Piazza, the second in command in DeKalb’s elections office, said there were serious voting irregularities with the LaVista Hills vote.  Some specific allegations include an unsecured memory card, voters being turned away, and materials mismanagement. Mr. Piazza maintains that he reported this to DeKalb Elections Director Maxine Daniels.  Subsequently, he has been placed on administrative leave.

“I have every confidence Secretary of State [Brian] Kemp and the GBI will conduct a full and thorough investigation and address any criminal activity. …

“Unless and until voters are allowed an election without any shadow of illegitimacy, this vote will remain suspect and DeKalb’s reputation will continue to erode. ”

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Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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