Under Section 5, any change with respect to voting in a covered jurisdiction -- or any political subunit within it -- cannot legally be enforced unless and until the jurisdiction first obtains the requisite determination by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia or makes a submission to the Attorney General. This requires proof that the proposed voting change does not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. If the jurisdiction is unable to prove the absence of such discrimination, the District Court denies the requested judgment, or in the case of administrative submissions, the Attorney General objects to the change, and it remains legally unenforceable.
-- U.S. Department of Justice
The Bibb County Board of Elections made it official Friday. It called off the election for the new consolidated government scheduled for July 16. It had no choice. The U.S. Department of Justice has questions, lots of them, about Senate Bills 25 and 30 that changed Bibb County elections from partisan to nonpartisan and moved the date of the election from November to July.
The Justice Department has not ruled on whether the changes are legal, but, by requesting more information it has effectively pushed the election down the road to a date not yet ascertained.
With the move by the Board of Elections, even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Section 5 being deliberated in the Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder case, Bibb County would be hard pressed to put on an election this summer. So its hurry up and wait for the 29 candidates that were set for July. The campaign was just starting to heat up. One mayoral forum had been held and campaign signs were starting to sprout like weeds.
There are some advantages to the delay. There were two districts with unopposed candidates out of nine districts. Since candidates will have to requalify it opens the door for others to jump into those district races or the other seven. Aside from the two unopposed candidates, each district, save District 3 (Danny Glover dropped out of the race), had three candidates running, one district had four and six people were vying to be the new mayor.
If the county has to hold a partisan primary all bets are off as to who will run and in what party. It would add a certain dimension that would change candidate strategy and could cause a number of them to reassess their desire to go into public service. It might also lure the few on council who did not seek a seat in the new government to reconsider.