LaVista Hills Loses; State Launches Investigation

LaVista Hills Loses; State Launches Investigation

Kevin C. Madigan

Kevin Madigan is a senior reporter for the Atlanta Jewish Times.

A narrow loss Tuesday, Nov. 3, in the LaVista Hills cityhood referendum appears to have squashed residents’ hopes of creating their own city in DeKalb County. The effort failed by 136 votes, less than 1 percent of the 13,714 cast, with 40 percent of eligible voters participating.

But it’s not over yet.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp asked for help from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after reports of possible election fraud emerged right after the vote.

The no side won, barely, pending an investigation.
The no side won, barely, pending an investigation.

DeKalb Elections Supervisor Leonard Piazza alleged that some voters were barred from polling places and that voter material wasn’t secured correctly after the discovery of a loose voting machine memory card. Piazza’s own actions, however, have been called into question, and he has been suspended.

“Some questions were raised by an employee of the DeKalb registration office — that there were irregularities, there was unsecured media, data — and he apparently was then put on administrative leave for questioning the integrity of the election,” LaVista Hills Alliance leader Mary Kay Woodworth told the AJT.

“The SOS and GBI are on it now,” she said. “I don’t think they would have launched an investigation unless they had some serious concerns, and at this point you’ve just got to let them do their work and see what happens. There’s no point in speculating about anything until the facts are out. It could be that the election has to be thrown out, or it could be left as it was Tuesday night.”

LaVista Hills would have included most of the heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Toco Hills.

Cityhood supporter Josh Kahn also trusts the GBI and the secretary of state to do their jobs, but he said he is troubled by DeKalb’s reaction to the whistle-blower in the elections office.

“Who knows what happens next?” he said. “Assuming the vote is certified, what the community will do afterwards is very up in the air right now; everyone needs a chance to regroup and reorient.”

The DeKalb elections board certified the referendum results Friday, Nov. 6, deciding that they were valid and accurate.

“We have confidence in the veracity of it, and everything has been checked and rechecked,” Samuel Tillman, the chairman of the DeKalb Board of Registrations and Elections, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Clearly there is more to hear there,” longtime Toco Hills resident Stephen Filreis said. “The vote was so close that there is too little consensus to make a successful city out of it. It’s not worth a fight for something that 50 percent of the people don’t want.”

Woodworth said she has received numerous calls from supporters asking her what they should do next. “My answer is there’s nothing to do at this point. All I can say is ‘Don’t throw your signs out,’ but I’m not promising anything.”

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