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Voters may be confused on “Incumbent” status at the polls

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Some DeKalb County candidates who have never been elected to office will have an added bonus when their names appear on the ballot: They will have an “I”—distinguishing them as an incumbent—next to their name.


Michael Erwin, who was appointed to the School Board’s District 3, will appear on the ballot as an incumbent. So will Joyce Morley of District 7. Gov. Nathan Deal appointed both candidates last year after he removed six board members based on a critical report by the school district’s accrediting agency. Neither has ever been elected. In the Special Elections race for DeKalb Sheriff, Jeffrey Mann will be listed as an incumbent as well. He was sworn into office on Feb. 28 after Sheriff Thomas Brown stepped down to run for Congress. Mann was the No. 2 leader at the Sheriff¹s Office, working under Brown’s administration.   


“These candidates will be listed as incumbents because they are currently serving in those seats that are up for election,” said Maxine Daniels, director of DeKalb County’s Voter and Elections Office. “They were not elected into the positions, but because they were appointed, that makes them the incumbent in their respected races.”


Several opponents of the crowded Sheriff’s race, which had six candidates who had qualified to run as of Thursday morning (March 6), say the “I” could give those who are running an advantage.


“Most people in general go with name recognition or they just automatically pick the incumbent because they don’t know the issues so having the I by their names definitely provides an advantage,” said DeKalb NAACP President John Evans. “Elected or appointed, the term Incumbent carries a lot. I think they should take Incumbent off the names of the people that were not elected and just list them in alphabetical order on the ballots. We’re planning to have a forum on Saturday, March 15 in Decatur, to get the School Board candidates introduced to the community.”   


Qualifying ended on Friday, March 7, noon. 

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