POOLER, Ga. (WSAV) — The Chatham County Board of Elections has agreed to allow signs with one candidate’s name on them outside of polling places. This comes ahead of Election Day as residents will vote for an open city council seat in Pooler.
Despite serving for less than 30 days as a Pooler city councilor, Shirlenia Daniel petitioned to be listed as an incumbent on the ballot in the election.
Her request was recently approved by the Chatham County Board of Elections, meaning there will be signage with her name, identifying her as an incumbent, posted outside polling places.
Though the signs are not meant to sway voters in any way, some say it’s unfair – and will do just that.
Tom Hutcherson resigned from his Pooler City Council seat less than a month before the upcoming election, and within days of his resignation, Shirlenia Daniel was appointed to his seat.
Some elected officials say the process was rushed saying it wasn’t necessary to appoint someone with such a short time left until the election – especially someone who is already a candidate.
“We could’ve waited. State law would’ve allowed us to wait. Our own charter would’ve allowed us to wait. But we could’ve instead of selecting someone who’s a candidate and potentially showing favoritism, we could have let the voters guide us,” said Pooler City Councilman Aaron Higgins.
Others have concerns that there was no input from the public about Daniel’s appointment and that the meeting where she was appointed only lasted two minutes.
“Since public opinion and public comment is no longer available at our meetings unless it’s public hearing, they feel that their voice is not heard,” said Karen Williams, Pooler mayoral candidate.
Dave Legasse, who’s running against Daniel, tells me city officials accused him of jealousy when he raised those concerns.
“It’s not about jealousy. It’s about transparency and what’s right for the people of Pooler. They had no say in this, and it really kind of, in my opinion, rigged the election in favor of other candidates. It tipped the scale in favor,” he said.
According to her campaign website, Daniel has served as a Pooler Planning and Zoning Commissioner for the past three years.
However, Trish Brown, a member of the Chatham County Board of Elections, tells me Daniel has not officially resigned from that position – only requesting a leave of absence.
“Also the controversy surrounding her not resigning from Planning and Zoning, which is appointed by Pooler city council. So, there is a conflict of interest there,” Brown said.
Brown also says Daniel did not file paperwork in time to be listed as an incumbent on the ballot. Instead, officials say Daniel used a precedent usually reserved for candidates who pass away after ballots have already been printed to petition for signage listing her as an incumbent.
Brown says the signage is concerning for election integrity.
“I was very adamant about making sure that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to call out too much attention to one candidate,” Brown said. “But the point still remains that if an undecided voter sees that name before they go in, and it’s the only name that’s called out, there does tend to be the concern that they might select that candidate even without knowing anything about them because they see that name right before they go vote.”
News 3’s Christine Queally reached out to Daniel for comment but has not heard back. Tom Hutcherson, the councilman who formerly held her position, is also running to reclaim his seat – and will be on the ballot today.