Drake can run in District 4
Election superintendent hears residency challenge
BY MARGIE RICHARDS
Madison County Elections Superintendent Donald “Hoppy” Royston ruled this week that Democratic candidate Melvin Drake can run for the District 4 board of commission seat currently held by Republican Wesley Jordan.
Royston’s decision came Tuesday morning after a hearing in his office with Jordan and Drake. The hearing was held at the request of Jordan, who filed a challenge to Drake’s candidacy for the fourth district, maintaining that Drake is a registered voter in Comer (District 5). Drake listed Danielsville as his district when he qualified to run on May 2, the last day of qualifying for most local elections.
Under oath Tuesday, Drake said he moved from his wife’s residence in Comer back to his mother’s home at 1664 Hwy. 98 West in Danielsville “on or about April 15.” Drake said his mother’s health had declined, so he now spends 75 to 80 percent of his time with her.
Jordan said he filed the residency challenge after looking at public records that showed Drake voted in Comer in February, though he listed Danielsville as his precinct on qualifying documents.
“It is a false statement,” Jordan said of the document.
Jordan also pointed out that a bus Drake drives on the Comer school route is still parked at his Comer residence. Drake acknowledged that he continues to park the school bus his wife’s residence because the school system wants the bus to stay near its designated route.
And Drake acknowledged that he had voted in Comer in February after he and his wife discovered that their registration had been moved. He said he did not change the registration himself and was unaware of how the change occurred.
Judge Royston pointed out that once he (Drake) voted in Comer, he was, in fact, acknowledging and agreeing that Comer was his correct precinct.
“If I made a mistake, then it was through ignorance and it was my fault,” Drake said.
Royston said that when “when the local legislation was introduced creating a five-member board of commissioners with a county-wide chairman, it required (only) that a commissioner of a district be a resident it did not give us any specific guidelines to go on,” Royston said.
The judge added that it’s the intent that matters.
“In all residency challenges I’ve witnessed, it’s the person’s intent that determines where he lives, and under oath he (Drake) has said that he moved back to Danielsville,” Royston said in making his judgment on the matter.
Royston told Jordan that he understood his concerns.
“He has voted, done everything in Comer, but all residential issues go back to intent, and he said he moved back (to Danielsville) on the 15th,” said Royston. “Nothing says he had to live there even five days (before qualifying).”
Jordan said he didn’t feel Drake has any “malicious intent.”
“I just think there are processes we have to follow,” said Jordan. “…When you (Drake) changed your registration to Comer, you changed your residency and did not take the necessary steps to change your residency back before you filled out your paperwork.”
But Royston told Jordan the qualifying form “does not mention where you vote,” but refers to residency.
“He has readily agreed that he voted in Comer, but if he lives in Danielsville, then that is his residency,” Royston said.
Jordan said people wonder if Drake will actually live in District 4.
“People are asking, if he’s elected, is he going to be here, or be there,” Jordan said.
Royston informed Jordan that he can appeal his decision to the Superior Court of Madison County.
Drake said he hated to upset Jordan.
“I’m not happy, because I’ve hurt a friend,” Drake said after the meeting.
Jordan said he feels the issue should be pretty cut and dried.
“What’s clear cut to some, might not be clear cut to everyone, but I do think it will be clear cut to the voters of District 4, and I’m just trying to represent them fairly as I promised to do,” he said.
Jordan, who said he was not informed of the date of the Tuesday morning hearing until Sunday afternoon, said he had not had time to seek legal advice, but that he will now weigh his options and decide whether he will appeal Judge Royston’s decision on the matter.