Richmond County Board of Elections came clean Monday on when it will conduct elections next year for Augusta mayor and five commissioners:
“It will either be on May 20 or July 15,” said elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey.
While lacking a definitive date, the statement partially ends months of silence about when next year’s local nonpartisan elections will be held.
Typically conducted on election day in November in even-numbered years, the Georgia legislature in 2012 moved Augusta elections to the date of the state party primaries in July. The U.S. Department of Justice objected, but the U.S. Supreme Court overruled this summer that part of the Voting Rights Act that required Justice preclearance, and a deputy Georgia attorney general maintained in September, allows Augusta to now follow the state law.
The elections board, however, has been unwilling to reveal whether it intends to follow the state law and move the city elections to July.
The board even closed an Oct. 31 meeting to the public to discuss the issue despite having no “real and tangible threat” of litigation, the reason cited by General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie for closing the meeting under Georgia sunshine laws.
Monday in open session, however, Bailey said the elections will be held on the summer date of the state party primary, although that date is subject to change when the Georgia General Assembly convenes in January.
The legislature is expected to move the primary date even earlier, to May 20, the date of the federal primary, she said.
Asked by a board member, Bailey declined to speak Monday for Richmond County Board of Education, which typically elects its members in November despite a similar state law that purported to move the nonpartisan races to the primary date.
While most nonpartisan school board elections in Georgia are now held on the primary date, School Board Attorney Pete Fletcher has said the system’s charter predates any other law that might move the elections to another date.