Augusta files motion to dismiss suit meant to move May 20 elections

Attorneys for Augusta filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss a federal lawsuit seeking to move May 20 mayor and commission elections to a later date.


Filed April 18 by the American Civil Liberties Union, three Democratic state representatives, a District 4 Augusta Commission candidate and several Richmond County voters, the lawsuit challenged the city’s decision last year to abide by changes that forced the consolidated government to conduct the elections in May, instead of their traditional November date.

In the motion to dismiss the suit, Atlanta attorneys Anne Lewis and Bryan Tyson noted the inconvenience of rescheduling the elections just days before their scheduled date and after the start of advance and absentee voting by mail – and the lack of irreparable harm to the defendants.

The date change, sought by the Republican-majority state legislature, had been previously rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice during the preclearance process required under the Voting Rights Act, but last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder, invalidated the coverage formula used to determine which states are required to obtain preclearance, prompting a renewed effort to move the local elections.

A defendant named in the suit, commission member Donnie Smith said with the newness of the Supreme Court ruling, he won’t be surprised if the litigation goes on for quite some time, regardless of the court’s decision on whether to grant a preliminary injunction.

“There’s no doubt this is a test case,” Smith said. “This is going to wind up costing us a lot of money.”

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