Macon-area senator asks for nonpartisan local elections

mlee@macon.comJanuary 14, 2013 

ATLANTA -- During the opening day of the annual Georgia General Assembly session, state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, has filed bills asking the state Legislature to set nonpartisan elections for the Macon-Bibb County consolidated government.

Only the state Legislature can change local elections from partisan to nonpartisan or vice-versa.

“We’ve got to move our community forward,” said Staton, “and the way to do that is to remove an impediment that I think, frankly, has been a hindrance in our community.”

Senate floor action could come as early as next week.

State Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, opposes the change, noting that Macon and Bibb voters approved partisan elections of the mayor and county commissioners as part of the consolidation referendum last year.

The Bibb County delegation’s third senator, freshman Burt Jones, R-Jackson, is undecided.

“My initial reaction is, I am for local elections to be nonpartisan, but I still need to hear both sides of the story before I come to my final decision,” Jones said.

Staton filed seven separate bills, in order to cover several elected offices: the mayor and commissioners, coroner, members of the Macon-Bibb County Water and Sewerage Authority, judges and the Board of Education. Senate Bill 28 formally abolishes Payne City.

If the bills are successful in the Senate, they also must be approved by the state House.

Finally, the federal government must test any change, like all voting laws in Georgia, to see that minority voters would not be unfairly disenfranchised.

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