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Candidates eligibility is questioned
Birth certificate at center of allegations
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Forsyth County News

As qualifying closed Friday for the July 31 primary, questions surfaced about one announced candidate’s eligibility to run for Forsyth County sheriff.

Despite allegations that he failed to turn in all the required information, Duane Piper says he has qualified as a Republican.

However, incumbent Ted Paxton said he spoke Friday afternoon with Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party, after he heard that Piper had not submitted his birth certificate.

The respective local political parties handle qualifying for county offices.

According to Georgia law, a certified copy of a birth certificate is required to qualify for the office of sheriff.

Paxton said he called Underwood after someone told him he had overheard a conversation at the qualifying table in the Forsyth County Administration Building.

“[Underwood] told me that he did not possess or have a certified copy of Mr. Piper’s birth certificate,” Paxton said.

Reached Friday afternoon, Underwood declined to go into any specifics about who or what the party might be reviewing.

“I’ve heard an allegation and we’re looking into it,” he said.

Barbara Luth, Forsyth County elections supervisor, said the local political parties are not required to turn in the paperwork for qualifying until noon Tuesday. As a result, she didn’t know whether the birth certificate was there.

As far as Piper is concerned, he’s an official candidate.

“I have completed the qualification process and I have qualified,” he said.

Piper went on to say that he spoke with someone with the local Republican Party just before noon Friday to confirm he’d done everything required.

A spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s elections division said not all races require a birth certificate, but county sheriff candidates must submit one to the local party by the end of qualifying.

Tim Fleming said if that requirement isn’t met, “that’s going to be a call for the local elections [office], and there could be a challenge to the candidacy.”

If it is determined a political hopeful did not meet the deadline to qualify with a party, Fleming said that person could still seek to run as an independent by qualifying in June.

Anyone wishing to qualify as an independent would have to submit a petition signed by 5 percent of the total number of registered voters eligible to vote in the last election for the filling of the office, among other requirements.

Lauren McDonald, who also qualified to run for sheriff as a Republican, could not be reached for comment Friday night.