Move fails to reverse Augusta election date

ATLANTA — The Georgia House of Representatives soundly defeated a motion Monday to reconsider changing the date of Augusta elections.

The House voted 50-95 on a motion by Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, to reconsider Friday’s decision to shift municipal elections from November to July. He had hoped to change some minds over the weekend.

Friday’s vote of 95-58 was on House Bill 776 by Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta. She said she was simply correcting a misunderstanding about a law enacted last year that changed the election date for nonpartisan, judicial and consolidated government posts. Augusta officials relied on a letter from the attorney general’s office saying that law didn’t apply to Augusta because of how the city charter is worded.

Sims’ bill, if it passes the Senate and receives Gov. Nathan Deal’s signature, would trump the letter.

There was no debate on Monday’s motion. Now Sims’ bill goes to the Senate.

The bill appears not to have the support of most Augusta commissioners.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles was one of seven commissioners voting Monday in favor of drafting a resolution in favor of keeping the elections in November.

“It would benefit a third-party candidate more to have an election in November,” said Bowles.

The resolution was requested by Commissioners Bill Lockett and J.R. Hatney.

Lockett said Monday that Sims’ bill lacked the support of other Augusta legislators.

He recalled a prior commission resolution characterizing Augusta commission and Richmond County marshal elections as taking place “on the date of the presidential and gubernatorial elections.”

Commissioner Jerry Brigham joined Joe Jackson and Grady Smith in voting against the resolution.

“We have always followed state law on the holding of elections,” Brigham said. “This law applies to all consolidated governments in Georgia.”

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