Organizers of a petition drive that began last week to remove Waycross Judicial Circuit District Attorney George Barnhill from office are going to have to start over.
Oneida Oliver-Sanders, one of the organizers of the recall effort, said Barnhill mounted a legal challenge to the petition filed at the Ware County Board of Elections, instantly invalidating the more than 300 signatures the group had already collected, she said.
“Barnhill asked a judge to look at the application to make sure it’s legal,” she said. “It’s his right.”
The next step is to ask the Georgia Secretary of State for permission to seek the nearly 24,000 signatures needed from voters living in the six-county judicial circuit for a recall election.
The circuit encompasses the counties of Bacon, Brantley, Charlton, Coffee, Pierce and Ware.
Barnhill has been under fire for his failure to file criminal charges against the men accused in the Feb. 23 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery.
After Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson recused herself from the case and Barnhill took over, Barnhill determined charges against Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34, were not warranted. It wasn’t until after a video of the incident went viral more than two months later and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation become involved in the case that the two were charged. The GBI also charged William “Roddie” Bryan, 50, the person who took the video of the shooting and is accused of helping chase down Arbery.
Oliver-Sanders said it was “shocking” to see the video, and Barnhill’s failure to file charges is the reason for the petition.
She said many callers have complaints about Barnhill unrelated to the Arbery case that want to sign the petition.
She believes the Secretary of State will approve the request for a recall petition and that the required 24,000 signatures will be collected in the required 90-day time period.
“It’s slowed us down some,” she said of Barnhill’s legal challenge. “Everybody is on standby.”