Both the Georgia House and Senate this week passed legislation moving state party primaries and local nonpartisan elections to coincide with federal primaries May 20.
The measure now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal, who’s expected to sign it.
The bill corrects what had been a confusing and expensive set of varying election dates: While federal primary elections would have been May 20, with any runoff on July 22, state primary elections would have been July 15, with any runoff on Aug. 5.
That was the result of Georgia’s losing a lawsuit alleging its previous federal election schedule violated the Uniform Overseas Voting Act, which says those voting absentee from foreign lands must have 45 days to cast their ballots. Georgia had only 21 days between the election and any runoff that followed.
Now that legislators have moved state and local elections to match the federal schedule, Columbus’ nonpartisan races for mayor, council and school board will be May 20, the same day residents vote for governor, state legislators, U.S. senator and Congressmen.
Moving that election date also changes the schedule for qualifying, which now will run 9 a.m. March 3 and noon March 7.
Besides the mayor's office, others open to challenge this year include the odd-numbered Columbus Council posts and the even-numbered school board districts, along with the citywide Post 9 board seat being vacated by Cathy Williams, who will not seek re-election.
In a statement emailed today, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp praised state leaders for taking action:
"Governor Deal and members of the General Assembly showed tremendous leadership in ensuring that Georgia voters will continue to have a uniform voting calendar rather than two separate calendars for federal and state elections," he wrote. "This would have been a tremendous fiscal cost to the counties and incredibly confusing for Georgia voters."