Governor signs bills for Macon-Bibb nonpartisan elections

state Sen. Lucas promises to fight decision in Washington

mlee@macon.comFebruary 14, 2013 

ATLANTA -- Gov. Nathan Deal has signed a trio of bills that make key Macon-Bibb County consolidated government offices nonpartisan.

Now the bills head to Washington for federal approval, where state Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, promises a fight.

The political parties would be removed from the ballots for Macon-Bibb County mayor, county commission, board of education and the Macon-Bibb Water and Sewerage Authority under Senate Bills 25, 30 and 31. And like nonpartisan elections in general, the votes would be held in July, not November.

A bill to make judges and the coroner nonpartisan offices, Senate Bill 26, is awaiting final House approval before going to the governor due to technical edits in the Senate.

“This day will go down in infamy,” said Lucas from the Senate floor, hours before Deal’s signing. “Because this is about race, ladies and gentlemen.”

He continued, “Now they have elections in July when they know the majority of African-American voters don’t vote in July. They vote in November.”

The move, he said, dilutes black voting strength. And minority voting blocs in Southern states are something the federal government inspects before giving approval, either at the Department of Justice or in a Washington, D.C., federal court.

“This ain’t no threat, y’all. This is a promise. I’ll be in Washington. I will fight you,” Lucas concluded.

A similar nonpartisan shift in Augusta-Richmond County was rejected by the Department of Justice in December because of the November-to-July shift.

Lucas blamed both Republican and Democratic legislators from Bibb County for nonpartisan July votes and for a consolidated system that he said will reduce the number of black elected officials from the first vote in 2013.

Republicans, he said, “don’t want anybody to know” who they are in a majority-Democrat Bibb County. And he blasted Democrats for allying with the GOP to sign the consolidation proposal that voters later approved in 2012.

The bills signed by Deal will now be sent to the Bibb County Attorney’s office. The attorney’s office must package them up and forward them to Washington.

The federal government has 60 days to either approve the changes or ask Bibb County for more data or backup information, which restarts the 60-day clock.

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