A North Georgia federal judge has reset next year's election calendar, and elections officials, state lawmakers and other politicians are pondering the impact the decision will have.
As it stands now, there would be a federal primary in early June 2014 that includes the congressional races. In the middle of July, the state primary would be held for all General Assembly seats and other state and judicial offices on the ballot. In Muscogee County, it would also include the nonpartisan races, such as mayor, five Columbus council seats and five school board seats.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones' ruling came after the federal government filed suit more than a year ago against the state, alleging Georgia wasn't allowing enough time for members of the military and others living overseas to return absentee ballots in federal runoff elections.
The state has two primary options, one being to appeal the decision and the other would be for the General Assembly to act early next year to consolidate the two primaries, thus moving the state one up.
"At this time, the election for state and local candidates will remain in July unless there is legislative action in the next session," said Muscogee County Director of Elections and Registration Nancy Boren. "This will pose many
budgetary and logistical challenges if we are required to conduct a federal candidate primary in June and a state/local primary in July."
Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon and Democratic state Rep. Calvin Smyre agree that the primaries should not be split.
"There is no question in my mind we are going to have to conduct the state election calendar at the same time as the federal one," McKoon said. "It would be awfully confusing to voters to show up one day and vote for Congress and show up another day and vote for everything else. The question is do we stick with the federal calendar or develop an alternate calendar."
"If you have the state and local elections at a separate voting time, it would be confusing and it lengthens the political process," said Smyre, the dean of the local legislative delegation.
If there are no changes to the 2014 election calendar, elections would be held on the following dates:
Tuesday, June 3: Federal primary
Tuesday, July 15: State and local primary
Tuesday, August 5: Federal, state and local primary runoff
Tuesday, Nov. 4: General Election
Tuesday, Dec. 2: State and local General Election runoff (This is an unlikely event)
Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015: Federal General Election runoff (This is an unlikely event)
The judge is requiring at least 45 days between the main elections and the runoffs to allow for military and others living overseas to return absentee ballots.
"There is no doubt in my mind we are going to have election day earlier than July 15, which is what the statute calls for," McKoon said. "The latest you could have the primary would be July 1. You could do the runoff seven weeks following and that would give you the 45-day window."