Bibb elections board seeking judge’s OK on election dates

pramati@macon.comJuly 8, 2013 

The Bibb County Board of Elections wants a federal judge’s blessing on election dates it set for the new Macon-Bibb County government.

The board voted 3-1 Monday to authorize County Attorney Virgil Adams to seek a consent order from a judge that would establish election dates for the nonpartisan election.

The election date would remain Sept. 17, the date the board approved last month. Any runoff races would likely take place Oct. 15, though that date isn’t official.

The board also moved up qualifying dates. Qualifying will now be held July 22-24 at the Board of Elections office, 2445 Pio Nono Ave. Qualifying initially had been scheduled for mid-August.

If a consent order -- an agreement worked out between two or more parties to a dispute -- is issued, it would settle a lawsuit filed by Mallory Jones III, a candidate for the new District 4 County Commission seat in the consolidated government.

“We hope the court will sign expeditiously so the preparations for the election can commence,” said Lee Parks, Jones’ attorney. “We are gratified at the cooperation we have received from counsel for the Board of Elections. They are committed to doing the right thing, and this consent order demonstrates that commitment.”

Parks said last week that the suit was filed in federal court to get a judge’s order that would lay out all of the election dates, thus limiting future legal challenges for this election. In an amended suit filed Monday, Jones dropped the Bibb County Commission as a defendant.

The changes became necessary when the original July 16 election date set by the state Legislature became untenable after the Department of Justice failed to grant approval to Bibb County by June 3.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act legislation last month, and the issue of that prior approval, called preclearance, has become moot -- for now.

The Board of Elections voted 3-1 late last month to approve Sept. 17 -- the next possible date on the secretary of state’s calendar -- to hold the election. That decision overturned a vote by the Bibb County Commission to hold the election Nov. 5.

Meanwhile, Adams said Monday that Steve Allen, who was a Bibb County Democratic Party appointee to the Board of Elections, may still be on the panel.

Allen, who chaired the June meeting in which the Sept. 17 date was decided and voted in favor of it, resigned from the local Democratic Party, which tried to remove him as its appointee.

However, Adams cited two sections in the Georgia code that said Allen may have been removed from the board illegally, since he never resigned his position from the board.

According to the law, only a judge can remove a board member “at any time for cause after notice and hearing.”

There was no hearing in front of a judge in Allen’s case.

Allen had been appointed to serve a second two-year term in April after finishing out his first term on the board.

Allen said he declined to go to Monday’s meeting, noting that it would be “an uncomfortable situation” to represent the party with which he had split.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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