City wins lawsuit over change in election date for local offices

 

U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall on Tuesday ruled in favor of the city in a lawsuit filed over the election date for local, nonpartisan races.

In a 10-page order, Hall granted Augusta’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed April 18 on behalf of Augusta residents: Rep. Henry Howard, Rep. Earnest Smith, Rep. Gloria Frazier, Thomas Walker, Kenneth Martin, Augusta Commission candidate Melvin Ivey and Albert Robinson Jr. It contended that the decision to move the local elections from the November general election ballot to the May 20 statewide primary election ballot violates the Voting Rights Act.

Hall agreed with the city’s contention, however, that a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June applies in the case. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court ruled states such as Georgia can no longer be forced to seek the U.S. Department of Justice’s preclearance to any change in the election process.

The court ruled that the formula used to determine which states had to seek preclearance could no longer be used. Without a formula, no state is currently subjected to the preclearance requirement, Hall wrote.

Although Georgia had submitted its change in election dates to the Justice Department before the Shelby decision was reached, the department’s objection is inescapably unenforceable, Hall wrote.

In December 2012, the Justice Department opposed the election date change, contending it would have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote.

The election of the mayor and commission seats for Districts 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 races is May 20.

Absentee voting has been underway since early April, and early voting also has begun.

 

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