It’s hurry up and wait on Bibb election details

mstucka@macon.comJune 26, 2013 

Sometime this year, voters will pick a new Macon-Bibb County government. The when and how of the elections, though, remains a question following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act.

Legislators had voted to make the new government elections in July nonpartisan, but the federal government delayed this year’s elections for a review that now no longer needs to be done, officials say.

Bibb County Attorney Virgil Adams said he’s still looking at the questions of whether the elections must be nonpartisan and when they could be held. He didn’t indicate when he might have answers.

“At this point, I don’t have any statement to make,” Adams said Wednesday. “We’re just trying to look at it real carefully.”

Adams could have a difficult time getting a second opinion. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office, which handles elections, referred questions back to him.

The Association County Commissioners of Georgia, which advises counties on election law and other issues, said Wednesday that its own attorneys wanted to get more information from the Justice Department before offering advice to member counties.

The Voting Rights Act required “preclearance,” or federal approval, of changes in election law in Georgia and other states before the laws could take effect. Those provision were tossed in Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said he’s been talking to legal advisers and others. He said he expects the Bibb County Board of Commissioners will call for a nonpartisan election this fall, but he doesn’t know whether that election would be Sept. 17 or Nov. 5.

Peake said he favored the earlier date, because newly elected officials will need time to get oriented toward the new government.

He said he expects a runoff election for the mayoral election and perhaps some county commission seats.

If the general election is held in November, that would leave the winners of any runoff about one month to get ready.

“My personal opinion is the longer the time we know who the elected officials will be, the better,” Peake said.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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