The Newton County Board of Elections will discuss the residency of Newton County Chair candidate Michael Syphoe at its next meeting on April 12.
During the meeting, the three board of elections representatives will discuss whether or not it is necessary to hold a hearing on the legitimacy of Syphoe’s candidacy.
“If it is necessary, we will hold a hearing and advise him of the hearing time and place,” said Hugh Steele, Chair of the Newton County Board of Elections. “We will make a decision as a result based on that hearing.”
There are one of two possibilities as it relates to election regulations: either officially declare Syphoe a resident of Newton County or not a resident of Newton County. If he is declared a resident, nothing will change for the current 2016 election. If he is declared not a resident, the superintendent of elections would withhold the name of the candidate from the ballot if the ballots have not yet been printed. If the ballots have been printed, then a prominent notice would be placed at each polling place in the county advising voters of the disqualification of the candidate, according to Georgia Code 21-2-6.
Syphoe, who qualified to run for the chair seat on March 11, listed his address as 6015 Eberhardt Street, Covington, Ga., 30014. However, the Fulton County Board of Assessors lists another address, 107 Randolph Street, NE, Atlanta, Ga., 30312 as Syphoe’s residency.
Also, the Atlanta address is filed as a homestead exemption which, according to Georgia law, makes it his primary residence. The law was passed as House Bill 1005 after it was introduced on Feb. 22, 1991.
According to the Newton County Tax Commissioner’s Office, a residence that is declared a homestead is the primary home, defining where one lives, pays taxes, and registers automobile tags.
Syphoe qualified to run for office in Newton County after presenting a form to the Democratic Party of Newton County showing he was registered to vote. He did indeed vote in the presidential preference primary at the Town Precinct at Washington Street Community Center on March 1.
According to Syphoe, Angela Davis with the board of elections validated his address before the March 1 primary.
“My address was validated as 6015 Eberhardt Street, and I voted at the Washington Street Community Center,” Syphoe said.
Syphoe also said that he moved to that address, which was his parents’ home, in August of 2014. He said he put his Atlanta home for sale in December of 2015.
If the Newton County Board of Elections decides there needs to be a hearing on Syphoe’s residency, he will have to provide proof that his residence is now in Newton County and has been for a year. Georgia Code 45-2-1 states that “the residency requirement for a candidate for any county office, except officers of a judicial nature, shall be 12 months residency within his county.”
Syphoe, who graduated from Newton County High School in 1973 and is on the board of the Washington Street Community Center, decided to run for office after attending board of commissioners meetings and hearing what people around the state were saying about Newton County.
“I wanted to run because of the foolishness that has been going on and the disinformation that’s being fed to the public about certain issues, such as finances, the reservoir and the landfill,” Syphoe said. “I worked a lot with the state office for economic development and some of the things people are saying about how wonderful Newton County is questionable.”
Syphoe is one of five candidates for Newton County’s Chair, along with fellow Democrats Marcello Banes and Phil Johnson and Republicans Aaron Varner and Levie Maddox. Current Chair Keith Ellis, announced in December he would not seek re-election.