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19 May 2014

Fulton County Commission Candidate Does Not Live in the District He's Seeking to Represent

(Fulton County Commission candidate Abraham Watson [right] with state Representative LaDawn Blackett Jones)
Meet Abraham Watson.

He's a 29-year-old running as the presumptive Republican nominee for Fulton County Commission, district 6.

Watson, however, does not currently live in the sixth district. And according to two opinions from the state Attorney General's office, Abraham Watson does not have to live in the sixth district in order to run in the sixth district.

Receiving a news tip from a concerned citizen, Georgia Unfiltered reviewed Abraham Watson's voter registration record.

On 30 May 2013, Abraham Watson registered to vote at his current address of 4856 West Park Circle, College Park, Georgia, 30349. His polling precinct is listed as EP04 (Brookview Elementary School), which puts him squarely in Fulton County Commission district 5. Still, living in the fifth district did not prevent Watson from qualifying as the Republican candidate for commission district 6 on 3 March 2014.

State law sets the qualifications for persons seeking public office, from Governor all the way down to school board. Each year, the Secretary of State publishes a document titled Qualifications and Disqualifications for Holding State or County Elective Office in Georgia, which outlines the requirements to run for office in this state. On page 180 of the 2013 edition of Qualifications and Disqualifications for Holding State or County Elective Office in Georgia, the requirements to run for county commission are listed.

COUNTY COMMISSIONER

Qualifications

1. Must have been a resident of the county in which seeking the office for at least 12 months prior to election or appointment.
O.C.G.A. §§ 45-2-1, 21-2-6

Annotations:

i. The residency requirement refers to domicile. There must be either the tacit or explicit intention to change one’s domicile before one can change his legal residence. If a person leaves the place of his domicile temporarily, or for a particular purpose, and does not take up an actual residence elsewhere with the avowed intention of making a change in his domicile, he will not be considered as having changed his domicile. Haggard v. Graham, 142 Ga. App. 498, 236 S.E.2d 92 (1977).

ii. A candidate for office of county commissioner must be a resident for a period of months prior to his or her election but does not have to reside in the commission district from which he or she seeks election for that period. Op. Atty. Gen. 86-23.

iii. A county is not authorized to establish more stringent residency requirements for election of county commissioners than the requirements in the O.C.G.A. Op. Atty. Gen. 97-27.


Based on state law and two opinions from the Attorney General, Abraham Watson meets the basic requirements to run for county commissioner from the sixth district. He is over 21 years of age, and he has lived in Fulton County for 12 months.

Fulton County ordinances say, "All [members of the board of commissioners] shall have been residents of their respective districts for at least one year from the date of their taking office."

Fulton County Commissioners take office on 1 January.

If Abraham Watson wins his election, he must live in the sixth district from 1 January 2015 until 1 January 2016 to remain in office.

Watson faces the winner of the Democrat primary contest between Emma Darnell and Bill Edwards in November. Fulton County Commission district six covers most of south Fulton County.