The Newton County Board of Elections declared Michael Syphoe eligible to run for Newton County chair in the 2016 election. The decision was made during Tuesday’s meeting held at the county’s Administration Building.
Syphoe, whose residency has been questioned by some local activists recently, was cleared for the upcoming May 24 primary election.
Jeanette Perry, the board of elections’ Democratic appointee told the board that she has lived next door to Syphoe, and he was a resident of Newton County. The board’s Republican appointee, Bill Perugino seconded the motion made by Perry to not proceed with a public hearing concerning Syphoe’s eligibility.
“It was obvious from what Jeanette said, that she lives next door to the house where Michael is, that he is currently residing in Newton County,” said Board of Elections Chair Hugh Steele. “She said he has been living there for more than a year.”
Syphoe qualified to run for the Newton County chair on March 11 with the address of 6015 Eberhardt Street, Covington, Georgia 30014 listed as his residence. However, the Fulton County Board of Assessors lists 107 Randolph Street, NE, Atlanta, Georgia as another Syphoe residence.
A homestead exemption has been filed at the Atlanta address. According to Georgia law, a homestead exemption is considered a person’s primary residence. The law, which was passed as House Bill 1005 after it was introduced on Feb. 22, 1991, states someone can only have one homestead exemption.
Syphoe said he moved to 6015 Eberhardt Street in August of 2014, and put his Atlanta home for sale in December of 2015. His son, Michael Syphoe, Jr. has been living in the Atlanta home, so the sale has not been pursued.
Syphoe’s homestead exemption was brought to the board of elections’ attention by concerned citizens. However, according to Steele, Newton County’s legal counsel has told the board of elections that it cannot receive any evidence as testimony from the public.
The board, did however, look into the matter on their own, and cleared Syphoe of any residency eligibility problems.
“That ends any challenge to his candidacy as far as the board is concerned,” Steele said.
Syphoe is running in Democratic primary against challengers Phil Johnson and Marcello Banes.
In other board action: the board of elections is moving forward with volunteer training ahead of early voting.
The county uses several semi-volunteers to man the polls each election.
“We have just a great group of people,” Steele said. “We’re very fortunate in that a lot of counties have to get out and try to find people [to volunteer at the polls] but we actually have a waiting list of people who want to do it.”