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Coroner Bill Thrower disqualified from July 31 primary because of bounced check

A bounced check has bounced incumbent Columbus Coroner Bill Thrower out of his race for re-election.

The Muscogee County Board of Elections and Registration voted Friday to disqualify Thrower because a check his wife Hope wrote the local Democratic Party for his qualifying fee was returned for insufficient funds. Hope Thrower told the board she didn’t have her glasses the day her husband qualified and wrote a check from the wrong account. She discovered the error May 31, the Tuesday after Memorial Day, and called the elections office to correct the mistake.

That proved to be a second mistake, apparently, because the Democratic Party already had paid Thrower’s qualifying fee to the elections board. Had Hope Thrower first called Democratic Party Chairman John Van Doorn, he could have told her the fee was paid, and elections supervisors might never have heard her check bounced.

But once elections workers heard about the check, they were compelled to rely on a Georgia law that states: “In the event that a candidate pays his or her qualifying fee with a check that is subsequently returned for insufficient funds, the superintendent shall automatically find that such candidate has not met the qualifications for holding the office being sought, unless the bank, credit union, or other financial institution returning the check certifies in writing by an officer’s or director’s oath that the bank, credit union, or financial institution erred in returning the check.”

Hope Thrower said the error was hers alone, and a letter from the bank would not have helped: “The letter from the bank would not have documented my clerical error,” she said.

Elections board members said the law’s phrasing of “shall automatically find” left them no leeway to grant the Throwers any concession. The five-member board voted unanimously to disqualify Thrower.

The coroner still can appeal the board’s decision to Muscogee Superior Court. Bill Thrower said he would explore that option.As the situation now stands, Thrower will serve out his term in office. If nothing changes, the July 31 Democratic Primary will show his opponent Buddy Bryan on the ballot, and with no Republican having qualified for the Nov. 6 general election, Bryan will become coroner on Jan. 1, 2013, said City Attorney Clifton Fay.