On Thursday, June 27, the Bibb County Board of Elections overruled an earlier decision by the Bibb County Board of Commissioners to have the first election of the new consolidated Macon-Bibb government in November and opted to hold Macon-Bibb elections on September 17.
In a 3-1 decision, the designated ‘independent’ member of the Bibb County Board of Elections, Barbara Clowers and the former chairman of the County Democratic Party– Steve Allen– were the deciding votes and sided with consolidation proponents and Republicans who wanted to have the non-partisan election as soon as possible — prior to November.
The Bibb County Board of Elections consists of five members– two members chosen by the Democratic Party, two members chosen by the Republican Party and one member chosen by the Bibb County Commission.
Clowers had been re-appointed as an independent member to the Board of Elections by the Bibb County Commission in 2011.
The Board of Elections is charged with the responsibility of setting election dates.
Board Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at 4:00 p.m. at the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections Office located at 2445 Pio Nono Ave in Macon.
This June 25 meeting required two separate votes in order to settle on a date.
The first vote was 2-1. Chairperson of the Board of Elections Rinda Wilson, one of two Republicans on the Board, was absent and vice-chairman Steve Allen abstained.
After the first vote, Macon City Councilman Henry Ficklin voiced opposition on whether two ‘yes’ votes on a five-member board were enough.
Board members deliberated behind closed doors with the county’s attorney Virgil Adams in an effort to review the by-laws.
After a period of time, the board came out to the public and voted a second time.
A third show of support by a raised hand in support of having the September 17 election was provided by former Democratic Party chairman for Bibb County, Steve Allen.
In early January, Staton and first-term State Sen. Bert Jones, signed off on non-partisan legislation –SB25, SB26, SB27, SB29 SB30, SB31, SB32– in an effort to establish non-partisan municipal elections for the Macon-Bibb consolidated government.
Instead of being a ‘honest broker’, Staton became a political opportunist and his disingenuous stance on non-partisan elections is not about bringing people together, but a political tactic to circumvent the Voting Rights Act.
Staton said the following to WMAZ-TV: “We made it very clear that this was something we would want to do as soon as we possibly could, and with the change in the delegation this year, we were able to do it through local legislation. So, I have no apologies to offer for this.”
The measure passed on January 29 with a 34-15 party-line vote in the Georgia Senate. After clearing the Georgia House with the rubber stamp of North Bibb Republican Allen Peake and fellow Republicans via a affirmative vote, the push began to get it signed into law.
By mid-February, Republican governor Nathan Deal quickly signed the legislation into law.
However, the Bibb County Democratic Party responded with a correspondence to the Justice Department and cited the effort to pass non-partisan legislation–led by Rep. Allen Peake and State Sen. Cecil Staton– as a “veiled attempt to thwart democracy” by diluting minority voting.
The U.S. Justice Department suspended the previously scheduled July 16 special election in late May to further investigate complaints under “pre-clearance’ via Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Subsequently, on Tuesday, June 25, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act which allows states to set rules for elections without going through ‘pre-clearance’ or review.
This decision opened the door for the county to reschedule a date for the Macon-Bibb special elections.
As of now, the Macon-Bibb elections are scheduled for September 17 with runoffs tentatively scheduled for October 15.