A Fayette Circuit Court Judge ruled this week that a first-time Lexington council candidate cannot run and must be stricken from the ballot.
In a decision dated Monday, Fayette Circuit Court Judge Ernesto Scorsone said of the 116 people who signed challenger Christian Motley’s petition to run, only 93 were valid signatures, seven short of the required 100 signatures of registered voters in the 8th District needed to run.
“Christian Motley’s name shall be stricken from the list of valid candidates for this year’s 8th Council District race and shall not appear on the ballot,” Scorsone wrote.
Incumbent Councilman Fred Brown filed a lawsuit on July 29 challenging the signatures on Motley’s petition for various reasons. Those reasons include some of the signatures were ineligible, making it difficult to prove the person lived in the 8th District; several people who signed the petition lived outside the 8th Council District or that a person in a household signed the petition on behalf of multiple family members.
Brown said he thought Scorsone’s decision was very clear and based on the facts of the case.
“I am very pleased. I hated to go this route. I felt that there was a lot of problems with his petition and I felt that I needed to proceed,” Brown said.
Anna Whites, an attorney for Motley, said her client will appeal Scorsone’s decision.
“It is not the function of the court to take away the voice of the voters or the right of the District to elect the candidate of their choice,” Whites said. “The law imposes the burden of proof on Brown to prove that the signors were not valid registered voters residing in the District. He failed to do so. The court incorrectly placed that burden of proof on Motley, which constitutes reversible error.”
Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins Jr. said if Scorsone’s ruling stands, it’s likely too late to remove Motley’s name from the ballot. Blevins said the clerk’s staff will post signs in those precincts to say that votes cast for Motley will not be counted.
Scorsone ruled that it was up to Motley to prove the signatures that were difficult to read were voters in that district. Motley was able to prove two of those difficult-to-read signatures were people who lived in the district. But Motley was not able to prove that with nine signatures on his petition, Scorsone said. Moreover, five people who signed the petition did not live in the 8th District. Three registered to vote in that district after signing the petition. Those who sign have to be registered voters in the 8th District at the time they sign the petition, Scorsone wrote.
One woman signed on behalf of her husband without getting the husband’s prior consent, Scorsone said. The man testified during an Aug. 28 hearing that he supported Motley and did not object to his wife singing the petition on his behalf, but Scorsone ruled that “the retroactive approval of his signature is unacceptable and can not stand.” Another man had signed the petition on behalf of four family members after he called them and got their approval. But Scorsone ruled those signatures also could not be counted.
Motley, who has worked at the state and federal level in education, is a first-time candidate.
Brown, an accountant, served on the council from 1994 to 2004. He was elected again in 2014 and in 2016. The race is non-partisan, but Brown is a Republican and Motley is a Democrat.
Motley, who has previously served as a deputy executive director for the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood and as a staffer for the U.S. Department of Education, has raised $20,396 and has more than $15,572 on hand, according to a July 21 report filed by the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.
He now works for an education nonprofit.
Brown has raised no money, according to campaign finance reports. The 8th District includes an area south of New Circle Road between Tates Creek Road and Alumni Drive.