Macon-Bibb election uncertainty causes confusion on finance reports

jgaines@macon.comJune 17, 2013 

The Department of Justice’s order to postpone elections for the new Macon-Bibb County government has left more uncertain than just the election date.

It also means the 30 candidates can’t be sure when they need to file campaign-finance disclosure reports.

“It’s all still a mystery,” said Adah Roberts, a candidate for the District 6 commission seat along with City Councilman Ed DeFore and former Bibb County Commission candidate Robert Abbott.

Roberts, a former city finance director, had planned to file her first report July 1 based on the initially set election date of July 16.

“The rule is that you file your first finance report 15 days before the special election,” she said Friday.

Instead, Roberts plans to call the state Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and ask for instructions.

“If they want a report, I’m fine with that,” she said. “All we can do is wait and find out when the election is going to be.”

Asked by The Telegraph what the postponement would mean for finance report filing, neither the campaign finance commission nor the Georgia Attorney General’s Office would comment on the record.

Had the election date not been kicked back, state law would have required a campaign-contribution disclosure report to be filed between June 30 and July 8, according to the campaign finance commission’s website. More reports were to be filed later, but all those dates are calculated in relation to when the election is scheduled.

Nonpartisan elections for the new Macon-Bibb County consolidated government were planned for July 16, but the Justice Department intervened with questions about how the election date was set and why elections are to become nonpartisan.

In late May, federal officials ordered a postponement of at least 60 days, effectively canceling the July election. A new date has not been set, but local officials figure it might be pushed back to November -- and if nonpartisanship is overturned, party primaries would have to be held before that, perhaps in August. The new countywide mayor and nine-member commission are scheduled to take office Jan. 1.

Thus far the only candidate to call the Bibb County Board of Elections looking for information on finance report filing has been mayoral hopeful Charlie Bishop, said Jeanetta Watson, the board of elections supervisor. She directed him to call the state campaign finance commission, because the board of elections can’t make plans without state and federal decisions.

“We’re at a complete halt,” Watson said.

She has a time line ready for managing the election schedule, but it will still take a huge amount of planning, which can’t start until there’s an election date to hang the schedule on, she said.

And shifting that plan from nonpartisan back to a partisan election with primaries would take even more time and work, Watson said. Until that’s decided, the board of elections staff can’t count on planning for any time off.

“It’s been a very challenging year so far,” Watson said. “We don’t know what to look forward to.”

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