For some Bibb County voters, upcoming elections mean several decisions

Some Bibb County voters will have more decisions to make July 31 than which candidate to vote for.

Since it’s the “primary and nonpartisan general election,” voters will have to sign in at their polling precinct for either a ballot that features Republican candidates or one that lists Democratic contestants.

Runoff voting is set for Aug. 21. But that’s the same day that the primary voting for Bibb County school board races is now scheduled.

That means some voters in north Bibb County will have to decide whether to sign in for a Republican ballot July 31 and vote, for instance, in the District 3 Bibb County Commission race, or whether to forego that race so that they can vote for a Democratic school board candidate on Aug. 21.

Whatever ballot a voter uses July 31, they’re obligated to vote in the same party in case of a runoff.

So, for example, if the District 3 commission race -- featuring Republicans Gary Bechtel, Ed Bond and Mallory Jones -- ends up in a runoff, voters who cast a Republican ballot July 31 could only vote Republican in the runoff Aug. 21.

“You have to vote by party in the primary, and a runoff is a continuation of the primary,” said Jeanetta Watson, elections secretary at the Bibb County Board of Elections.

Primary races for six Bibb County school board seats up for election this year were pushed back to Aug. 21 after an order by U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson. The court order was issued after three Bibb County residents challenged the use of the voting district maps used in the races.

Lester Miller and Brenda Sutton, who are running for school board seats, and current school board member Gary Bechtel, a county commission candidate, filed the suit.

There could still be changes. Qualifying for school board candidates will reopen July 9 and 10, and the need for a runoff election in September depends on how many more people enter the races, said Elaine Carr, the elections supervisor.

“Nobody’s contacted us at this point, so I don’t know,” she said.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature and the Bibb County school board signed off on new maps that evenly distribute Bibb County’s population among school board districts based on Census data. The maps required approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before they could be used for elections, but the department didn’t approve the new maps until mid-June.

Qualifying for the board races was held in late May. Since the old maps relied on 2000 Census data, the lawsuit contended that they violated the 14th Amendment’s “one person, one vote” provision.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.