“The General Assembly acted swiftly on this issue, and I have as well, so that local election officials and candidates can prepare,” Deal said in a statement.
House Bill 310 aligns state and local nonpartisan elections, such as the mayor and commission races and two state court judgeships, and state party primaries, with the May 20 date of the federal primary, which was set by a federal judge to accommodate military voters. The bill also moves qualifying for the local and state posts earlier, to the week of March 3.
The bill has statewide impact, and the date shift will be a significant change for Augusta voters, who have elected the city’s mayor and 10 commissioners in November since consolidation. The mayor’s post and commission districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 are up for election this year.
An earlier statewide effort to move the dates excluded Augusta because the city charter specifies that it conduct elections in November, while a later bill seeking to move Augusta’s elections to the primary date was rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice.
With the date set, Augusta voters will have the opportunity to vote sooner than ever.
Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey said early voting in the May 20 election will be held weekdays starting April 28 in the board of elections office and at three other locations – Diamond Lakes Regional Park, Warren Road Community Center and Henry Brigham Community Center –the week of May 12. Paper absentee ballots will be available starting April 4, she said.
Voters should also take note of the change in the runoff date, Bailey said. Several of the local elections have multiple contenders, making a runoff likely. The runoff will be held July 22, nearly two months after the election.