By The Outsider
Well the speculation is over. Elections for Augusta-Richmond County Commission and School Board will remain on the November General Election ballot for this year. Elections officials, candidates and voters have been sitting on the edge of their seats for weeks wondering exactly when the non-partisan elections for commission and school board would be held.
A bill passed in the waning days of this year's Georgia legislative session (SB-92) would have moved all non-partisan local races from November to the July 31st General Primary. It was signed into law by Governor Deal in early May. However, because Georgia is still under pre-clearance provisions from the 1964 Voting Rights Act, the law still had to be approved by the US Department of Justice before it could take effect this year. The deadline for DOJ pre-clearance for the law to take effect for this year's election cycle was yesterday. Well, yesterday came and went with no word from the DOJ, so that means elections automatically remain in November for the non-partisan Augusta commission and Richmond County school board races.
However, if the DOJ does eventually approve SB-92, then that means local non-partisan elections would be moved to July 31st for next year, but for now they will remain in November.
The only thing still uncertain is what the districts will look like for this year's elections. Federal Judge Randy Hall was charged with drawing up new redistricting maps for this year after the state legislature was unable to agree on a redistricting map for the Augusta-Richmond County commission and school board. Hall has said that he will follow the "minimum-change doctrine" when drawing up the districts, and under the time-table he gave last week, those district maps should be available by early next week.
Some candidates will be happy to see the elections held in November instead of July. It gives them several more months to raise money and campaign. But for other candidates, this may be unwelcome news. Commissioner Matt Aitken (Dist 1) will likely have an even greater uphill climb for re-election. With the election now held on the same day as the Presidential election and with President Obama on the ballot, there will likely be a higher turnout of black voters than usual for local elections, and for a white candidate like Aitken running in a 60% majority black district, the odds-makers may be betting against him this time.
After next week all the uncertainties surrounding this year's local elections should be clarified with new district maps, and with the elections now being held in November, candidates now have some assurances on how to proceed with their campaigns. One thing is for sure, it's going to be a long election season.***
No Qualifying for Commission and School Board Races this Week
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