This week Columbus candidates take their first steps toward a tightly scheduled May 20 election for local nonpartisan offices.
Qualifying starts today at 9 a.m. at the elections office in the Columbus Consolidated Government City Services Center off Macon Road at Rigdon Road, right behind the Muscogee County Public Education Center.
Qualifying ends at noon Friday. Each day between, the elections office will be open for qualifying at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m.
This year the nonpartisan offices up for grabs include the even-number school board seats, plus the citywide Post 9 seat Cathy Williams is vacating, and the odd-numbered council seats, plus the mayor office.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson this year is expecting a challenge from Colin Martin.
The general election schedule is tight, but should a runoff ensue, it will be a stretch.
A runoff would be July 22, from May 20 a stretch of nine weeks -- a challenge for candidates trying to keep voters engaged during the long, hot summer.
The Georgia General Assembly changed the election schedule this year because the state lost a lawsuit challenging its compliance with federal laws mandating that those serving overseas have adequate time to mail their absentee ballots in.
A federal judge set May 20 as Georgia's federal election
date, so legislators set state and local elections to match.
Under the old schedule, the election would have been July 15 and the runoff would have been Aug. 5.
After qualifying, the next milestone in this year's elections is April 7, when election workers start mailing out absentee ballots.
The voter registration deadline's April 21; in-person early voting begins April 28 and ends May 16. Candidates seeking state partisan offices will qualify in Atlanta.
Because the political parties also will hold their primaries on May 20, voters here will have a choice of three ballots. They must choose a Democratic Party ballot, a Republican Party ballot, or a ballot with only the local nonpartisan races on it.
The nonpartisan races will be on each party ballot, but a nonpartisan ballot will have neither party's primary.