A federal judge issued a consent order Tuesday afternoon that officially sets Sept. 17 as the date of the upcoming nonpartisan elections for the new consolidated Macon-Bibb County government.
U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal signed the consent order, which settles the lawsuit filed by District 4 County Commission candidate Mallory Jones III against the Bibb County Board of Elections and Elections Supervisor Jeanetta Watson. The two parties agreed to a settlement Monday, which is the basis of the judges order. Jones lawsuit previously objected to reopening qualifying for the election, but he dropped that point in the lawsuit as part of the settlement.
In addition to setting the election date, the consent order declared that any runoff elections would be held Oct. 15 if necessary. Voter registration is set to end on Aug. 19, while reopened qualifying is set for July 22 to noon on July 24 at the board of elections office, 2445 Pio Nono Ave., in Macon. Any candidate who has already qualified and wants to withdraw has until noon on July 17 to withdraw their candidacy in order to get a refund for qualifying fees previously paid during the first qualifying period earlier this year.
Candidates who previously qualified need only to adjust their paperwork to qualify for the September elections.
The order also sets advance voting to be held from Aug. 26 to Sept. 13.
The Sept. 17 election date became necessary when the original date for the special election -- July 16 -- became untenable after the U.S. Department of Justice failed to reach a decision by June 3 on whether it would grant Bibb County preclearance under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
However, the preclearance issue became moot once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled part of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, thus eliminating the formula to determine preclearance until Congress creates a new one.
Jones attorney, Lee Parks, said last week the lawsuit was filed in order to get a judges consent order that would prevent future legal challenges to having the election Sept. 17.
Members of the Bibb County Democratic Party had pushed to hold the election Nov. 5, saying that the September date could suppress voting among blacks in the county. However, Sept. 17 is the next date to hold a special election, according to the Georgia Secretary of States calendar.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.