The editorial was wrong by stating that state Reps. Wayne Howard, Gloria Frazier and Earnest Smith already had voted to have the election May 20 when House Bill 310 passed unanimously in this year’s legislative session. The glaring error is that House Bill 310 was a response to a federal mandate to move primaries for federal candidates to May 20, to give appropriate time for the military to vote on runoffs.
House Bill 310 also, for reasonable reasons, moved primaries for statewide candidates to May 20. House Bill 310 did not include municipal elections, and therefore the representatives could not have voted for nonpartisan elections to be held May 20, as the editorial so glibly stated.
Consolidated governments such as Augusta’s are given the authority to act either as counties or cities (municipalities) for elections. Augusta-Richmond County consistently has chosen to be a municipality for purposes of elections, and has set elections for members of its government in November to conform to federal and state elections. Despite this, the attorney general of Georgia, along with the secretary of state – based on previous legislation urged by the Republican Legislature and introduced by Republican Barbara Sims – moved the nonpartisan elections to May 20. I believe this was a blatant attempt to suppress minority voting.
The Democratic representatives filed an objection with the attorney general of the United States and, after consideration, the attorney general ruled that the change from November to May could not take place. Under a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the right of the Justice Department for preclearance was abolished. However, although the objection cannot be implemented by the Justice Department, the objection still is valid. The ACLU suit was filed with this argument.
The Executive Committee of the Richmond County Democratic Party concurs with the ACLU suit and the Democratic representatives who signed it. The suit is in keeping with more voters going to the polls, thus preventing voter suppression.
Facts are important.
(The writer is chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party.)